A report prepared by the Educational Standard Evaluation Center under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology shows dismal score in mathematics and science of Grade Eight students across the country. Not surprisingly, students in private school perform much better than those in public schools. The School Sector Development Program (SSDP) is one of the biggest projects in education. Despite such a huge investment, the results have been rather poor. A majority of students perform poorly in math, science and English in Secondary School Examination (SEE). The government must look into the report seriously and work to ensure that the achievement gap between private and public school is erased over time.
One of the key factors affecting test scores is the quality of teachers. Many public schools in remote villages sometimes wait for a whole academic year before they get teachers to teach math, science and English. A large number of permanent teachers in public schools don’t teach regularly in the schools. Many of them are affiliated to sister organizations of political parties and spend time in political activities than in academic exercise. Plus, some of the teachers in public schools have been teaching for over three decades without going through rigorous refresher trainings on a regular basis. And the impact of that is visible in the poor performance in those subjects in secondary and in other levels as well.
Under the federal system, local governments have the liberty to design and implement curriculum of their own. Some local governments, Bhaktapur is a good example, have already designed their curriculum and will be implementing from this new academic year. The federal government has to set a clear criteria and standard upon which local governments should design their school curriculum. This will ensure contextualization of knowledge gathering and dissemination. Moreover, the local governments will have regular and strict supervision and monitoring of schools which will hopefully contribute toward improving teaching-learning process.
Our ongoing debate about community, public and private schools must help us strike a balance so that the majority of our students are not deprived of quality education. When students come out from secondary level school with a huge difference in their skill set then that will perpetuate income and opportunity inequality for the rest of their lives. At the heart of our widening inequality in the performance of students between public and private is also the economy. The government should be mindful of the economic realities of the people so we address problems infecting our public education and not just look to root out the symptoms.
Our federal government spends upwards of 10 percent in education. This is a huge budget. However, we have yet to see the return from this type of investment. From building proper physical infrastructures to training teachers, we have a long way to go before our public schools start performing better. As we see leaders crisscrossing the country to admit students, there is a lot more to be done to ensure that these students do not drop out a year later and that they perform well in school.