When letter grading system was introduced to assess students’ performance in final examination of grade 10 three years ago, one of its purpose, we were told, was to ensure that many more students ‘pass’ with flying grades and that students do not have to live with lifelong stigma of SEE (then SLC) failure. One serious flaw of numerical grading system was that it barred the students from pursuing higher studies simply because they obtained low grades or failed certain subjects they found difficult to learn. Transformation into letter grading system had raised the prospect of eliminating various ills, including suicide rates (a number of students would commit suicide after failing in SLC every year) of students. Three years down the line, we seem to have made a ‘remarkable’ progress in increasing the ‘pass’ rate in SEE but we seem to be regressing in terms of quality. The result of Secondary Education Examination (SEE) unveiled by Office of Controller of Examinations (OCE) on Saturday clearly shows this.
More students have secured Grade Point Average (GPA) between 0.85 to 1.20, the second lowest grade, than last year. Of the total 463,689 students who appeared in SEE in April, 58,688 students fall under this category, almost 10 percent rise compared to 2.53 from last year. Of the total 445,564 students, only 11,285 students had scored such GPA last year. Technically, this group of students has not ‘failed’ but in practice schools do not admit students securing less than 1.25 GPA in grade 11. Thus this ‘pass’ grade will eventually mean nothing for them. Students who obtained GPA from 2.05 to 2.4 make 13.7 percent, seven percent less than students obtaining the same grade last year. Similarly, 10.86 percent students have obtained GPA 2.85 to 3.9. Last year, it was 11.36 percent. It might sound unwise to measure students’ performance in terms of number and percentage—the very idea that letter grading system was supposed to do away with—but this suggests that we are failing in terms of improving quality of education in schools.
Experts have ascribed this to worsening quality of secondary level education. They have also pointed out the need to make serious changes in the pedagogy and teaching methods under the grading system. Official data are yet to be obtained but various reports show that most students, especially from rural areas, have performed poorly in subjects like math, science and English. Depressingly, our measures to reform school education in the recent times seem to be directed toward eliminating these vital subjects rather than finding ways to help students excel, or at least do better, in those subjects. This reflects on recent decision by Ministry of Education to relegate subjects like math and science into ‘optional’ category. This is not how we can ensure quality outcome. The concerned stakeholders must review the system and find ways to redress the problems. We do not need a system that brings out more and more number of ‘passed’ students with low level of competence but the one that ensures that our SEE graduates will be eligible to pursue higher studies and succeed as well. The change must be reflected on SEE results next year.