My eldest daughter is giving her SLC (School Leaving Certificate) examination this year along with five lakh-plus secondary school students. Heralded as the ‘iron gate’ that determines their academic course in life, SLC becomes headline news upon its commencement and publication of end results. But SLC’s methodology and marking system still leaves ample room for discontent and debate. Talks about SLC being discarded has been going on for quite some time now, but remains to be affirmed and implemented.
As a mother of a SLC examinee, I would like to raise several imperative issues that need to be addressed and resolved urgently. We have entrusted the academic future of our children in the hands of the Nepali education system. So we have the right to question the system if it falls beneath the benchmark. For all the hype created by SLC, if we are to review the content of the text books, there are still a lot of discriminatory and lopsided issues. Nepali history, interestingly, has been rewritten as per the mandate of the ones in power. Authentic and unbiased viewpoints are still not being incorporated in subjects like history and Nepali. Befitting works and personalities are still left out and neglected. The level of English required to pass SLC has always been low in comparison to level of competence in subjects like mathematics and science. New subject matters have been introduced over the years but lack supervision and quality. I would like to quote a few paragraphs from a curriculum book endorsed for SLC students to support my concerns.
Health, Population and Environment Education for Today (HPE) is the official government-approved book taught to grade 10 students of Nepal as one of the compulsory SLC subjects. The book gives us a clear picture of the level of negligence and corruption that is prevalent in the Nepali education system. In comparison to other subjects, this book is a relatively new addition (with only a few years to its credit) to the list of books recommended for SLC. The authors of the book are Prof Dr Ram Krishna Maharjan, Dr Bal Krishna Ranjit and Uddhab Bhadur Karki. The editor of the book is Padam Prasad Khatiwada and it has been published by Ratna Pustak Bhandar. The book was last edited (third edition) two years ago.
The first paragraph of the very first chapter of the book goes: “Manpower is an important and compulsory resource to lead a better life by developing economic, social and political areas of a country. Efficient manpower is the base of economic development. Man has to do the overall development and this attempt is for him/her.” What should we make of this paragraph? The very first word, ‘manpower’ is technically and conceptually incorrect, especially in terms of trying to justify the total population.
Talking about psychological factors (page 35) affecting birth, death and migration, the book says: “Virility-many people show their society being successful in life by giving birth to a child. Sterile people are hated by society. Such couples should be always dominated by the couples or persons who have child or children.” I fail to comprehend this statement. Even if we try to make some sense of it, it seems to sanction that childless couples should be ‘hated’ and ‘dominated’ by couples who have children. Under the subheading ‘Flourishing family’s prestige’, the book states, “Family void of son is trivial. The concept of male birth in a family is an orthodox view of traditional people. They are running after such belief so does not accept the existence of that family which lacks son. Due to son preference many couples wait for son though they have already a half dozen daughters.”
If you think the lines quoted above are unbelievable, turn to page 144 and read these lines on drug addiction: “The addict friend usually induce the neo-ones to this habit; in Nepal some people use drugs to worship and please Lord Shiva; drugs are used because of drift towards western culture, sense of pseudo freedom and urbanization and to trap the smugglers to addiction trap some users.” Furthermore, the long term vision for sustainable development on page 115 is thus outlined: “Development works should be launched to meet the long-term goals. The sustainable development should develop a long-term vision of the development. For this people should be well familiar with the basic principles of sustainable development.” The three sentences basically mean the same thing. This style of expression is reflected in speeches made by many Nepali people who have undergone the traditional Nepali educational system.
The book is full of outrageous grammatical mistakes and erroneous sentence structures. Even in places where the language appears to be slightly tolerable, the level is definitely not up to the mark. In most parts of the book the paragraphs are repetitive and monotonous. The book is testimony to the authors’ incompetence, and I am amazed at their audacity to bring out the book. I am further irked by the editor and the publisher of the book for encouraging this rubbish. How did the book receive the approval and endorsement of the Ministry of Education to be part of the curriculum? Why are private schools that pride themselves on being ‘English medium’ not raising their concern on this issue? To add to the horror, I hear that the subject is now being taught from grade 6 onwards.
This is definitely a case of, “if you cannot dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit”. As a concerned parent, I refuse to take this bullshit! I have entrusted my child to the Nepali educational system with the hope that she will emerge a more substantial person. Health, Population and Environment are each crucial subjects on their own. But we need knowledgeable and better versed persons to take the lead in designing and implementing the curriculum, not pseudo intellectuals and a corrupt system.
We are in need of better citizens for this nation. Our only hope for a better Nepal will be lost if we allow sub-standardization and corruption to penetrate and pollute the educational system. The whole purpose of SLC still seems to be based on rote learning, mugging and writing down repetitive paragraphs to fill up exam papers. That has been and still seems to be the mantra for scoring high marks. It’s time to change it and encourage our young ones to be creative, imaginative, and knowledgeable in the true sense. That is eventually what matters in life.
An article by:
Shrijana SIngh Yonjan
The author is director of Creative Statements, which specializes in performing arts and event management
Source; Republica National daily