The Secondary Education Examination (SEE), known until 2016 as School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exam, is being held across the country. Sunday marked the first day of the exam and as of this writing, no major untoward incidents have been reported. This is a welcome shift for in the past SEE (or SLC) exams used to be riddled with cases of rampant cheating, especially in the districts in Tarai plains. Cases of teachers and parents themselves assisting their wards to cheat in the exams made the news. Dozens of examination superintendents were held in charge of assisting cheating. Others would be intimidated for trying to maintain discipline and fairness inside the examination halls. But those were also the times when SLC used to be hyped too much and branded as an iron gate. The over attention SLC examination received in the past was due, among other factors, to the fact that the student failing in certain subjects would be deprived of the opportunity to pursue higher education and therefore the concern of every student (and a parent) would be to get through the SLC exams.
We have come a long way since. For one, grading system has meant that students failing with lower grades in certain subjects but doing well in others are eligible to pursue higher studies in the areas of subjects they feel comfortable with. How and whether letter grading system contributed to enhancing quality of learning is a matter of debate but with it and rebranding of SLC into SEE and firmly integrating it with grade 10 examination has at least destigmatized failing in SEE as inability to succeed in life and future career. According to the Office of the Controller of Examinations, more than 400,000 candidates are taking the exams across the country. A welcome change this year is that exams are being conducted as per the federal structure. Unlike in the past, Ministry of Social Development of respective provinces has been delegated major responsibilities of monitoring and overseeing the matters related to SEE exams.
However, the responsible authorities do not seem to have taken correctness of question papers seriously. On the first day of the exam of English subject, students in almost all of the provinces received the question papers which were full of grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and incomplete sentences. Particularly with question papers in Province 3, Province 5 and Karnali Province. As a result many students are reported to have skipped those ‘confusing’ questions. For sure this will impact their results. Even the brilliant students might score lower grades than they are capable of. Question papers of examinations of national importance must be error-free. We will know how well the students did when the results come out. But for now we must ensure that mistakes which happened on the first day (and might possibly happen in the remaining days of SEE) will never be repeated. Yes, a lot has improved in our high school examination system but many more things need to be done yet.