SLC examination High investment, low achievement
Mana Prasad Wagley
Had there not been the grace mark system, the SLC pass rate this year would have been around 30 per cent.
Every year there is a hot discussion on education when SLC results are out. Then everybody forgets about it until next year. The same thing has happened to the SLC results of 2061 which were out last week. This year only 38 per cent passed whereas more than 120,000 failed. In comparison with last year, this result is less by eight per cent. This has raised a serious question about our educational system. Where there is a system, the achievement of students never comes down once it establishes a certain level. Unfortunately, the last three years’ results are fluctuating, first getting a height of 46 per cent from 32 per cent and again declining to 38 per cent. What may be the reasons? There is a committee working on this issue for the past 12 months but the report has not yet come out. This year the government schools got only 18 per cent success rate whereas the lion’s share went to the private schools. The major reason for this is that there is the lack of accountability and transparency at both the central and district levels. Is there anybody in the government to be held accountable for this huge failure rate? Can the district education office take responsibility where the result is zero? Are teachers made accountable for their poor teaching? Nobody is accountable.
The government is spending the largest share of the budget in education but the largest failure rate is also in education sector. The total budget for education in the current year is Rs.18 billion. If we add 10 years’ budget for education to prepare our students for SLC and find out how many students passed SLC from government schools, the unit cost comes to about Rs.10 million. Can Nepal afford this cost? Do the National Planning Commission and the Ministry of Finance have answers to this? What do the donor agencies do in Nepal spending a lot of money on education? Are they really serious about quality enhancement? This means that the education system in Nepal needs to be overhauled. Moreover, the Office of the Controller of Examinations (OCE) does not have efficiency since it even missed out a topper from the result sheet in announcing the best among the girls. That is an example of sheer negligence (if not on purpose). This indicates the OCE has limited capacity to handle the exams from the centre. Thus the government should not make any delay in regionalising the SLC exams, keeping its recognition as before. The present OCE does not demonstrate the capacity to handle 300,000 students at a time. The other issue is its credibility. Just two days before the SLC result, the Controller was saying that the results would be published only after two weeks because there was a lot of answer books missing. How come they become able to publish the results in a couple of days? How can civil society trust them?
The teachers’ organisations and the Ministry of Education are saying that the poor SLC result is the cause of conflict in the country. It is true that some teachers are displaced and some schools are closed. But there are about 2,000 secondary schools where 20,000 teachers are involved in teaching SLC students. Then why couldn’t the results of other schools come up? The country has experienced conflict for the past ten years. Then how come the result went up to 46 per cent last year? This shows a serious need for the Ministry of Education to monitor school activities. There are around 2,000 school supervisors and resource persons to do the job. What did they do then? Should they be made accountable for this situation? If the present supervisors and resource person system could not work, the Ministry of Education should consider better alternatives.
The irony is that the teachers in the government schools get more pay than the teachers in the private schools, are trained and get all the benefits, including pension, at par with the government employees. But the results are always poor. However, there are some government schools that have excellent results. Some government schools have demonstrated
better results than the private ones. The government should highlight these schools and replicate the lessons to other schools. Had there not been the grace mark system (five grace marks given), the SLC pass percentage this year would have been around 30 per cent only. This further shows the deplorable situation of our education system. It is true that education is the government’s responsibility but it does not mean that the government should spend for nothing. So performance-based budgeting is essential in education sector. Unless the government stops funding the non-performing schools the situation will not improve. For this the MOE should provide the minimum to each school as required by the Education Act and Regulations, like subject-wise qualified and trained teachers, educational materials and other physical infrastructure first and develop an in-built monitoring mechanism involving the local community and the teachers’ union.
Wagley is professor of Education, TU