Quality education : Nepali public institutions far behind

Following the publication of the results of SLC, ISc and +2, a great number of students are going for higher studies. It is noteworthy that the students coming from public institutions are denied admission in private colleges. Just because their English is weak. But even when they are granted admission, these students find it difficult to cope with the pressure. Hence the education system of Nepal is producing two levels of students.

Once a student has secured a particular degree, he or she is considered to have a minimum level of competency in the field concerned. In practice, however, the scenario is different. Not all students crossing over from one level to the next have comparable competency levels. The problem is not with the colleges but the lack of capabilities of the students. This is a great pity.

The education stakeholders have not been able to develop indicators of students’ performance. At school level, the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) has formulated learning outcomes for each grade, level and course. But that is not enough unless the goals are further translated into performance indicators. The university curriculum seems even weaker than school curricula with regard to students’ performance indication. University level curricula simply state objectives and not the learning outcomes in detail. The norm-referenced measurement adopted by Nepal’s education system for the last 50 years is the main reason for this weakness. The norm-referenced measurement does not lead to mastery of a particular set of skills. It only encourages students to guess certain topics, memorise them and gargle out the same in exams to get pass marks. For this reason, some universities and university-level institutions in Nepal have started letter grading system.

This system is a much better measure of student competence. Nonetheless, the universities adopting this system should also be aware of performance indicators. Unless performance indicators are designed and performance bands are made, the exact level of competence of students will remain unknown. A pertinent example in this context would be the performance variation of students in SLC and +2 level. The scoring system at school level has not helped predict students’ performance at the higher level and the same is true of different levels in the university.

The Ministry of Education has been busy designing Education Sector Development Programme, School Sector Reform Programme and three-year interim plan for the last few months. But these administrative documents seem to be doing nothing more than make the functioning of MoE easy. The planners are thinking only about their benefits. While, ideally, all educational planning documents should be formulated keeping students’ performance in mind, a rigorous academic exercise is essential in this regard.

Some people advocate two sets of examinations: one for government schools and one for private schools. This distinction is necessary, they claim, because of difference in quality of inputs. But this kind of provision will do injustice to public school students. It is the country’s responsibility to maintain a minimum level of educational standards at all schools. Instead, the MoE should take a lead through its CDC, NCED, HSEB, OCE, CTEVT, NFEC and other technical and administrative arms to design performance indicators for each subject in each grade level. Once performance indicators are designed, they should be brought for consultations. Universities should also start this exercise through their subject committees. The do-nors, for their part, can assist this endeavour by supporting the MoE through EFA;

and they can help the universities by aiding higher education projects. It is also

the donors’ responsibility to promote qu-ality education. So far, the donors have simply overlooked the quality part.

Educationists and academicians have also proved incompetent. This is because most of them are workers of political parties, who are ready to do virtually anything to meet their petty ends. The recent relay hunger strike of NUTA is a burning example. Instead of learning from the success stories, our academicians want to destroy the good work. Meanwhile, their political masters protect them.

It is noteworthy that the PM is the Chancellor and Education Minister the Pro-chancellor of all universities. Quality education would only be possible if the Chancellor and Pro-chancellor do not intervene in university matters, either directly or indirectly through their political cadres. The same is applicable to Higher Secondary Education and CTEVT, with Education Minister acting as the chair and Education Secretary a member. Politicisation begins from the admission process and continues through examination results. Unless this politicisation of education institutions is stopped, quality education will remain a dream.

Dr Wagley is dean, School of Education, KU