Those who vowed to transform education system are in power today. But they have not done much
It’s 14 years since I passed School Leaving Certificate (SLC). Long coaching hours, tedious classes and tiresome walk to school still haunt me when I think about it. SLC never was an ordinary examination and kept making headlines even after it was renamed Secondary Education Examination (SEE), following the eighth amendment to Education Act (1972) in 2016. This year 475,003 students took SEE. The SEE is a 10th grade examination, just like its former self SLC, which will be regarded as a point of entry to higher education or intermediate level, especially 10+2. The positive thing about SEE is that there will be no students marked failed and every examinee will be eligible to continue studies in grade 11.
Soon colleges will come up with lucrative admission schemes. They will tag themselves as ‘the best’ in the town and spend lot of money buying the cover page of national papers so as to attract the students. This is a good season for colleges to make money and sell their names.
Access to education
There were a couple of thousands more girls sitting for this year’s SEE than boys. This composition is something that makes one happy to see more girls going to schools across the country. The flip side of this, however, is these girls come from community schools which are cheaper and inferior in terms of learning-teaching facilities than private schools. This composition is a sad revelation of discrimination against girls in our society.
In reality, not every successful student will be able to get to study the college of his/her choice. The discrimination starts from the very beginning. Past year’s data shows that most of the students from the community schools are unlikely to join the college because of the poor grades. Most colleges set their own admission criteria and divide the lines prohibiting students with poor grades from getting admissions. They have their own target groups and mainly serve the wealthy ones. The poor parents cannot afford to send their children in expensive colleges.
The country has witnessed major political transformations. Those who vowed to transform the education system in order to provide easy access to all are in power today. But they have not done much. So today, we have two types of students studying in two types of schools: private and community. Education should be accessible and affordable regardless of class and wealth. But this is not the case here.
I studied Science because I had secured first division. My relatives and teachers pressured me to go for Science. Coming from Nepali medium, I found it very difficult to understand the course for a year or so. I never enjoyed my course nor scored good grades. We tend to categorize students according to their grades. Students with good grades are often considered as science students while those with grades below ‘A’ or ‘B’ are advised to take Management and Humanities faculties. Even if you have ‘A’ grades you can still do arts and music. It is student’s interest and inclination toward particular subject that should matter the most while choosing particular subject for the study not his/her grades. Not every science student becomes a doctor, engineer or scientist. And the country needs economists, political scientists, musicians, comedians and meteorologists too.
Education for job
Every year, thousands of young people graduate in different faculties from different universities. Thousands of applications are received for few hundred vacant posts. According to data from the World Bank, from December 1991 to December 2017, the average rate of unemployment was 2.74 percent. Unemployment has been a perennial problem in the country and youths are forced to go abroad in search of better job opportunities. Supplying our young muscles to the foreign land might be a short-term solution to keep the economy ticking as it will help generate remittances, but supplying commodities and products should be our priority for stability and prosperity in the long term.
Our obsolete education system is to blame for the sluggish economic growth and troublesome unemployment rate. There is a little or no coordination between our education system and the natural resources we have. It is imperative to help students develop knowledge and skills to help them contribute in nation development through utmost utilization of resources. I remember how I wrote essays on this very topic as a part of my homework under the lantern when there was no electricity in our village. Despite having great hydropower potential, we had to suffer acute power supplies until the recent years.
Besides this, the negative impact of partisan politics on higher education, including that of Tribhuvan University (TU), is the major concern for quality education. In an article titled “Reforming higher education” (Republica, June 21, 2018), Prem Phyak discussed how teacher’s professionalism and hiring and promotion system is important to strengthen academic culture of a university.
He further argued that only the committed professional possesses sense of engagement in teaching, introducing innovations, conducting research and so on.
It is time to free our educational institutions from politics and equip schools and universities with required resources. We have no choice but to update and upgrade our teaching-learning methods, curriculums and overall system to meet the global standards so that our students are well equipped with knowledge and skills to compete in global context.