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A-Level Education in Nepal: Scope and Myths

Tek Nath Poudel

June 22, 2020
Last updated September 26, 2021
KMC Lalitpur

A-Level is a primary school leaving qualification in England and Wales. It is available as an alternative qualification in other countries. A-Levels were introduced in 1951 as a standardized school-leaving qualification, replacing the Higher School Certificate. The examinations can be taken on a subject-by-subject basis according to the student's strengths and interests.

A-level examinations in the UK are currently administered through 5 examination boards: AQA, OCR, Edexcel (London Examinations), WJEC and CCEA. The present five can trace their roots via a series of mergers or acquisitions to one or more of the originally 9 GCE Examination boards. Additionally, two examination boards are offering A level qualifications internationally: Edexcel and the CIE. OCR and CIE are both branches of the parent organization, Cambridge Assessment. In the UK, it is customary for schools to register with multiple examination boards and to "mix and match" A-Levels to get a combined curriculum that fits the school profile.

A-Level qualification was introduced in Nepal by Budhanilkantha School in 1986. Currently, there are 21 A Level institutions running in Nepal. A Level is an internationally recognized course that offers flexibility in subject combinations from a wide range of subjects. Moreover, its affiliation to the University of Cambridge, the UK, and its recognition in more than 160 countries are the major reasons why A-Level is getting popular among students in Nepal.

Scope of A Level

A level is designed in such a way that it interests students when they delve into its real depth. Students can study as few as 3 or 4 subjects they like, which relate to what they want to study at university. Students have the advantage of focusing on subjects of their interest. Due to flexibility in subject combination, students can choose to drop subjects they do not like and focus on the few ones with all attention. 

A-Level qualification serves as an entry to top-tiered and ivy-league colleges and universities in the world. Furthermore, students who have completed A-Levels are well prepared and positioned to tackle the most challenging universities and disciplines' demands.

A Level Recognition and Acceptance

Cambridge A-Level qualification is recognized and valued by universities worldwide, including those in Nepal, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, and beyond.

Over 600 universities in the US accept Cambridge International AS & A Levels, including all Ivy League and Ivy Plus universities. These universities include Brown, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. In the UK, all universities accept Cambridge qualifications. In Nepal, all universities, including Tribhuvan University (TU), accept the A-Level Cambridge qualification. We work closely with universities to make sure A-Level qualifications develop the skills and knowledge students need to succeed.

In a survey conducted in 2018, higher education admission counselors at the world’s universities said that Cambridge A-Level qualification would prepare students well for the university.

Myths surrounding A-Level

1. A-Level is extremely hard

“100% exam-based?” “Need to think analytically and critically?” “Work twice as hard as I did in SEE? That sounds hard!”

Students willing to pursue A-Level might have the above questions running in their heads. While it’s true that A-Level modules are in-depth and can be tough, the level of difficulty ultimately depends on which subjects you choose and how you manage your time to study.

As a starter, choosing A-Level subjects that are of your interests and strength is crucial. For example, if you enjoy Mathematics and are good at it, you’re more likely to put in the effort and taking Math would not be a big deal.

At the same time, working consistently and understanding the concepts in place of learning by heart would help develop self-study habits for the future learning at the university. Studying according to the schedule and learning to tackle the problems from the beginning won’t make A-Level difficult but fun.

2. A-Level is a waste of time if you don’t plan to study abroad

A-Level equips students with in-depth knowledge of specialized subjects. It inculcates critical thinking skills in the students, which is crucial to succeeding at university. And if you want to pursue a professional degree such as medicine or law, you should consider A-Level due to its full recognition and extensive course syllabus. You can study at any university within Nepal after completing A-Level.

3. A-Level is expensive

Just because the A-Level program is the British education system doesn’t mean that the cost to study A-Level locally is the same as in the UK.

While some private colleges in Nepal charge a hefty fee, many colleges offer A-Level qualifications at affordable prices. Besides, there are many ways for students to secure a scholarship to study A-Level in Nepal.

4. You can apply the same study methods as you did in SEE (school)

Since evaluation is done through the written exam as is the case with SEE in Nepal, many tend to think that memorization, cramming at the last minute, and regurgitation will earn them good grades. In fact, the opposite is true.

A-Level subjects are designed to test students’ analytical and critical thinking skills. It discourages traditional methods of learning- memorization and learning by heart. Real A-level gets tested in the exam as students have to apply concepts learned in the classroom.

Without solid understanding, students end up with poor grades. While A levels are important for admission to the university, they also provide advantages beyond the classroom. A-levels – and their grade levels – are widely recognized by employers around the world. Excellent A-Level grades will help you stand out from other candidates. A-Level qualification lays the foundation to demonstrate consistent performance to meet international standards of excellence.

Tek Nath Poudel is the Head of Academics at Malpi International College. He can be reached at teknathp@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are his own.

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