The new letter grading system has made effective teaching and learning a choice, not a compulsion
The SLC examinations that were started in 1934 have been scrapped from this year. This government decision has upset many schools that used to advertise their top SLC scorers. It has also disappointed couching institutes and advertising agencies. The system of declaring “top ten” had strong public appeal. SLC board toppers are still well-recognized in Nepal. Almost all of them have become noted doctors, engineers, academicians, bureaucrats, businesspersons and political leaders.
The government would reduce power-cut hours during SLC exams. It was like a national event.
Was scrapping SLC exams a wise move? Will it help improve the quality of education and student qualification? I doubt.
The letter grading system adopted for SLC results this year has confused many parents, students and higher education institutes. Everyone passed since there was no ‘fail’ category this year. Even “dull” students have straight A’s. Although educationists said the grades could not be converted to percentage points, people are still doing so. Grading system was aimed at discouraging pass and fail categories, but below C grades are also unqualified for higher studies.
Out of about 437,000 regular examinees, 369,000, or 84 percent, have passed SLC with C or above. Only 16 percent got A or above A. This result is pleasantly surprising as the pass percentage in recent years had not crossed 47 percent (in 2011). But as in the past, there is a huge gap in the performance of private and public schools.
Most students getting C or less come from public schools, which around 80 percent of all students attend. This is not surprising given the mismanagement and political meddling in public schools. Teachers held classes irregularly and also involved themselves in politics.
Classes should be conducted for at least 216 days of the year, according to our Education Act. But studies have shown that our public schools cannot conduct classes for more than 120 days due to the all-too-frequent general strikes. Teachers act more like loyal servants of political parties instead of working in classrooms. In fact, politically motivated teachers have ruined the performance of public school students across the country.
The government in 2005 had introduced Liberal Promotion Policy with ‘no fail’ for up to grade eight. The letter grading system is nothing but its extension up to grade 12.
I think the new system will make teachers and students irresponsible and lazy. ‘No SLC’ will only benefit the already mismanaged plus-two schools.
In a way SLC exams were like a nationwide standardization test of competitive abilities for higher education, similar to TOEFL or GRE. We chose to scrap this system instead of bringing timely reforms in the system.
Our education system has suffered as political parties have made public schools platforms to recruit their loyalists. It is not clear how the new system will correct this systemic flaw.
School education is the most vital education in one’s life. It entails understanding of basic concepts, logical thinking, altruism and value for work, which are useful for all our lives. Letter grading system has made effective teaching and learning a choice, not a compulsion as it passes everyone, whether or not the students have properly studied.
Testing the knowledge and maintaining certain standards are essential to motivating students and teachers. The SLC system did so successfully, despite its other shortcomings. Will the new system also be successful in this? I doubt.
The author is a professor at Department of Statistics, Tribhuvan University