Mana Prasad Wagley
Whatever the problem, the SLC exam has been considered as the gateway to higher education. The â€œSLCâ€ means everything in Nepali education system where only four per cent of the 18-23 age groups join further education. So the importance of SLC can not be described in words. Whether it is career development or further education or seeking jobs or daughterâ€™s marriage, SLC has its own value. Thatâ€™s why parents seem much worried about their wardsâ€™ exams than the students themselves. One can observe this reality in every home as this yearâ€™s SLC exams are only about two weeks ago.
Letâ€™s see the scenario of teaching-learning situation that counts for the fate of the students in SLC. In cases where the teachers have not completed teaching all chapters, students have to resort to coaching centres or home tuition. In cases where there are no subject-wise teachers, the students have been disadvantaged even if the courses are completed. In cases where the subject teachers are deputed to the offices of political parties and/or to the teacher association offices, the right of the students to study has been snatched. In cases where the working teachers are participating in the agitation called by political parties, there has been no education in schools. There are several such cases where the students are disadvantaged and teachers not. The teachers draw their salary whether the classes are run or not and whether there is a zero percent achievement for many years. These should have been issues for discussion among the executives of the teacher associations and their mother political institutions rather than demanding the promotion and extra facilities to the teachers themselves. This has indicated that the teachers are worried about their career without considering the career of their students. Threatening the MOES with disturbing the operation of upcoming SLC exams and alarming the innocent parents are examples of teacher selfishness.
The MOES also fulfilled the teachersâ€™ demands for two purposes: one, the government did not want the teachers to join the agitation of political parties, and two, considering the demands will not harm the bureaucrats even if it is counterproductive to the whole upcoming generation. Making all temporary teachers permanent and giving them permanent licences is a crime for MOES. Making demands that compromise educational quality in the name of unionâ€™s welfare is not ethical for teachersâ€™ associations. Now the MOES has no right to talk about quality education because it has breached its own rule of making teachers permanent. How can MOES claim quality education if it considers untrained teachers having permanent licenses for teaching? In other words, the MOES is betraying the donors in two ways: one, it is going to make unqualified teachers permanent and two, it has agreed to centrally appoint teachers contrary to the agreement it has made with the donors about recruiting teachers locally. In other words, decentralisation is a false slogan of the government and with this slogan it only wants to receive donations but never works for this. Betraying the donors is one thing but by doing this the government is playing with the future of the country which is unforgivable.
Now it is clear why the government decided to consider students in passing them in SLC exams. With amendment to the guidelines, the government has proudly announced that it will provide five marks as grace to those who fail with this margin. There is no way with the government to satisfy the donors at this moment but to give grace marks to show that the SLC percentage has risen and that the donations have been effective. Unless they do so they are not going to get any donations in the coming years. So the government thought: why not reduce the standard and confuse the donors? This, the government thought, would yield two advantages: one, the pass percentage of SLC will be rising so that domestic stakeholders will not raise their fingers, and two, the international community will see the quantitative progress enough to trust the bureaucracy.
The MOES bureaucrats and the donors supporting them seem to have no knowledge about student assessment and its impact on the future of Nepal. In our country, the norm assessment has been set as 32 pass marks for SLC. Since there are no criteria developed so far and quality is a far cry, the cut point 32 helped produce underqualified graduates in the absence of 68 per cent knowledge in their school life. How can one expect the quality in higher education with such graduates? So is the case of Nepali education system. In this context, the effort should be to raise the standard rather than lower it. Adding 5 points extra to the unsuccessful students is reducing the standard of education and playing games with their future. It should rather be raising the norm from 32 to 40 or 45 so that students could me made aware of the standard expected from them.
Giving extra points does not solve the problem. Adopting measures for quality improvement does. MOES should give attention to the management of good teaching in schools rather concentrating on grace marks. Closing the eyes to the wrong-doings of paid personnel and trying to save them by adding points is an example of intellectual bankruptcy.
Dr Wagley is professor of Education,TU.