Where is our school education heading for?

2014-04-05

Dr. Mana Prasad Wagley

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This is not a new fact that the quality of Nepalese school education is deteriorating day by day. The responsibility for this state of affairs has not been not taken by any stakeholders in the forefront. The picture, however, is clear that in our schools do not promote quality as such. The head teacher, the teachers, the learning environment, the support system, the learning process and the like are not suitably utilized and/or placed in schools. Moreover, the school management committee is highly politicized the language of which is more partisan politics than academics. The majority of the head teachers and teachers are affiliated with one or the other political party. 

The physical infrastructure of public schools in the valley itself is not suited congenial educational environment. The classrooms are not learner-friendly nor can the teachers conduct any activities in the given situation. The intended curricula are good, however, the expected outputs are never produced. Rather, we have been producing “parrots” instead of qualified SLC graduates.

School Leaving Certificate Examination has been considered as the main point of departure to open up the future for our students. This is one of the reasons why rampant cheating practice is encouraged by parents, and, in some cases, the teachers and the head teachers to show their numeric products in the market. 

Although the rule is to teach 220 days a year, most of the public schools run less than 150 days a year on an average. There are cases where the school days are even lower than 100 days a year. On top of this, several strikes, bandhs, and chakkajams add fuel to it, and force more school closures. The teacher-time on task, as shown by past research report, is less than 40 per cent. The teachers, having extra business, contract unqualified teachers in their places (Khetala shishak), mostly in rural public schools. 

There is no monitoring of teachers’ activities in schools, even if the government spends hundreds of millions of rupees a year to feed its school supervisors and resource persons. The government claims that all its teachers are partly or fully trained. However, the practice one can see in the schools is only chalk-and-talk. The teachers do not even have the knowledge of what is in the curriculum. The intended outcomes of the curriculum have not been put into practice while teaching, and assessing student performance. That is the reason why the SLC graduates have only the knowledge of the story, essay and poem given in the textbook, not the kind of knowledge, attitude and behavior as envisaged by the curricula. 

The Office of the Controller of Examinations has been promoting textbook knowledge rather than anything else, since it has been preparing SLC questions based on text contents. Then, what is the use of designing the curricula? Why talk about scientific education? Let the students suffer from cramming text contents as they do in private schools, and they will get good marks, as one can see 89 percent results of the private schools compared to only 46 percent of the public ones. Should not the Education Ministry think over this serious issue? It is imperative that the public schools gear up to meet the challenges, and the Education Ministry ought to come up with a winning strategy.

The essence of this discussion leads us tto the fact hat our education system has not helped our students shape their attitude and behavior the way they were expected. Further, it can be claimed that whether a students gets 40 per cent or 80 per cent in a subject, the difference in academic strength is very minimal. Neither the CDC nor the OCE can explain the marks obtained by a student in terms of his/her capacity. And we are carrying this meaningless examination system for the past 77 years. 

Now, the SSRP plans to conduct SLC (at the end of grade 10) at the regional level, and HSLC (at the end of grade 12) at the national level. If the plan goes into operation smoothly we will see only one national SLC of 2068. Whatever the design of education and examinations are, if we do not focus on goals there will be no difference in the capacity enrichment of the students. Thus, it is high time that Education Ministry exercise on outcome-based assessments, rather than content- based ones. This year MoE seriously tried to control the unethical practices during the SLC examinations the impact of which was clearly reflected in the results. If MoE starts a kind of assessment system that requires creativity in place of rote memorization by the students, there will be no anxiety for deploying police force while the examination is being conducted. If the Education Ministry is quite serious about quality education, it should improve the classroom teaching practice based on the creativity test in SLC. Is there a kind of courage in our Minister and Secretary of Education to transform the present outdated teaching-learning process into a scientific and creative one with adequate monitoring, supervision and follow-up support? If not, please stop talking about “Quality” in our education system.

Dr. Wagley is an educationist

(Source: The Himalayantimes: Published on July 5)