School Leaving Certificate graduates had no option other than joining the Proficiency Certificate Level course under Tribhuvan University (TU) until few decades ago. However, with the increasing demand for qualitative higher secondary education system, various international courses like University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) affiliated General Certificate in Education Advanced Levels (GCE A-levels) and International Baccalaureate were introduced in the country.
Such pre-university diploma courses have now provided opportunities for many Nepali students to pursue global standard education in their own homeland. The A-level programme, which was introduced some three decades ago, is not entirely a new concept to many. Offered initially by Budhanilkantha School from 1988, the programme was not accessible to the general public until various private schools started it a decade later.
A record at the British Council shows 41 academic institutions are authorised to run A-level programmes while 38 of them have already started their classes. The programme, though centralised in the Capital in the beginning, is available at various schools outside the Kathmandu valley. Currently, three schools in Pokhara and one each in Biratnagar, Butwal and Chitwan are operating A-level programmes.
According to Nabin Man Shrestha, chairman of Cambridge Educators’ Association Nepal (CEAN), a total of 3,200 students are studying under the A-level programme. He said the A-level is a rigorous academic programmes available in the country.
The A-level is an academic qualification offered by Cambridge University and is equivalent to the Plus-Two courses under the Higher Secondary Education Board. The GCE is run under Cambridge International Examination (CIE) Board and part of the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES), now known as Cambridge Assessment. The A-level programme which is one of the most prestigious pre-university courses in the world is taught in around 170 countries across the globe. Students under the programme can choose from over 50 subjects. Moreover, the A Level curriculum has a flexibility to allow localisation of courses of many subjects mainly under non-science stream. According to A-level operators, the programme can be a very good option for students who want go abroad for higher studies. It not only provides a strong foundation for further education but also is recognised internationally.
The evaluation system of the A-level programme is quite different from the one in practice under the Higher Secondary Education Board. Under the grade point average (GPA) system, the results are categorised as A, B, C, D or an E grades based on the performances of students. Tribhuvan University recognises A, B and C grades as distinction, first division and second division respectively; Grades D and E are recognised as third division. Similarly, the A-level programmes are run in semesters and examinations are held every six months. The examinations are held twice a year-in May/June and October/November.
According to CEAN, the programme cost is different depending upon the colleges where monthly fees range from Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000. On average, A-level programme in Nepal costs around half a million rupees to complete the two-year course.