SLC results and beyond Quantity overrules quality

Every year, there is a ritual hue and cry when the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examination results are out. The media too splurges hours and even days to discuss whether the exams were held in a manner that reasonably helped test the requisite aptitude of students and the strengths and weaknesses of the educational system in Nepal. This continues for a week or two and then discontinues until the next year. The question is: Have these activities helped guide the government to improve the system? Or has the government taken any initiatives of its own accord? Whoever is to blame, the educational standard has improved little over the years.

Quantitative growth in the pass percentage has leapt up suddenly, as the government decided to conduct examinations on Grade Ten curriculum only. This is one indication of reducing the waste of the educational investment. However, an increase in the percentage of passed students cannot alone make the parents content. Parents should also have the assurance that there has also been an improvement in the aptitude of their children so that they can excel in their chosen field of study.

The problem of subject-wise teachers is still the same as used to persist ten years back. The number of teaching days in remote parts of the country

still remains dismal. Teachers on deputation to political party offices still continue to leave students bereft of teachers. The tendency among some unscrupulous teachers, to send their substitutes for minimal salary to teach in schools in the rural areas, is also quite common. Teachers are often sent on training, without first finding their substitutes. The government has not been able to monitor and supervise these activities that have only served to further lower the quality of education. In this situation, the result of 63.73 percent pass rate this year cannot lead us to be convinced that quality has improved.

Let us analyse the results as such. Out of the successful students (195989), fifty seven per cent (111400) secured second and third division. That means the majority of the students were mediocre. Moreover, the first division and the distinction holders are not in any way a yardstick of quality because hardly enough efforts have been made to improve the quality of education. In fact, the aptitude of those who secured first division and distinction can be considered better than those who secured second and third division. These are the products of “parrot teaching” because they successfully vomited in the examination whatever they had memorised. Thus, the present SLC examination system cannot be considered the promoter of quality in schools.

Unfortunately, the bureaucrats have been making the SLC examination result the main indicator of the quality of schools by simply counting the heads in percentage. That is the reason why private schools are making their business as usual. Parents also wrongly believe that a higher pass percentage means higher quality. There are around 1000 government schools the pass percentage of which has gone beyond 50 per cent. This is a great jump as compared to the past results. More than 500 of them have achieved more than 75 per cent resu-lts. These data clearly demonstrate that private schools alone cannot claim that they are the quality generators. Again, these 1000 schools are no less than the few private schools who have also achieved the same.

It is true that private school products are strong in English. That is why they have the options to select the best Plus Two colleges because they also are claiming their quality in English as the medium of instruction. The majority of the SLC products will have to look at such colleges that use Nepali language as the medium of instruction and almost all of them are under Tribhuvan University Proficiency Certificate level. Except in Science, the TU colleges have been adapting Nepali as the medium of instruction even at the Maters’ Level. What this denotes is that the less capable will be made even less capable compared to their colleagues who are admitted in the English medium colleges. This does not mean that Nepali medium is inferior.

However, the reality is that there is more demand for students with credentials that guarantees proficiency in English language. This scenario also suggests that we should start English as the medium of instruction from the school level. Opportunity to select the best colleges also depends upon the financial capability of the students. As in international practice, our colleges need to provide on-campus jobs so that students can minimise their financial burden. This practice will have dual benefits. On the one hand, colleges can minimise their expenditure, while on the other the poor but meritorious students will be motivated to study in colleges of their choice. All things said, the colleges should also be aware of the competencies of their products and whether they perform equally well in their professional careers.

Dr Wagley is an educationist