Demand and Supply in SEE

The National Examinations Board (NEB) published the result of School Education Examinations (SEE) of the year 2076 a month back, but there was no air of exultation among students, parents and stakeholders. The exam was slated to begin on March 19, but considering the Coronavirus pandemic it was postponed until the first week of June. Even when June started, there was no sign of conducting the exam. And a rumour surfaced that the government would declare the academic year 2075-2076 a ‘zero academic year’. A few days later, this was ruled out during a Parliamentary Standing Committee meeting on Human Resource Development. This decision triggered uncertainty and sluggishness among students. Finally, good news came that the authority reached the decision of giving authentication to the internal evaluation of schools instead of holding the board examination to curb the possible spread of the virus. Making the eighth amendment in the Education Act, the board decided examinations will be held in Grade 12 for the school level, and all examination responsibilities will be handed over to the province level for Grade 10.

From SLC to SEE

The School Leaving Certificate (SLC) is a nationally administered examination in Nepal. This exam was administered in 1934 AD for the first time and the Durbar High School was the first school to take part in the SLC examination. Still the examinations were supervised by the Patna University officials. Only since 1946 Nepal has been conducting the SLC examinations independently. SLC was termed to be the “Iron Gate” in the lives many students, and, of course, if the result is analysed it was justifiable. With a total of 8 subjects and total marks of 800, students used to obtain their grade sheets in division and percentage. Scrapping the standard and traditional pass-fail system,  since 2015 the Government of Nepal has been adopting a brand-new grading system that ranks students from A to E (A+, A, B+, B, C+, C, D+, D and E) with GPA ranging from 0 to 4 without a failing grade. This was followed by the replacement of SLC with (SEE) in 2016. 

Earlier, the SLC results would be published in Gorkhapatra. But, nowadays SEE results are published online after 2-3 months of the examination. With its long history, authority and feedback, the SLC examination system has undergone many reforms. SLC was very popular, for it could open the door to opportunities. Schools used to strive to produce board toppers. It has also gained notoriety for question paper leakage, tough level of questions, disastrous results of government schools, and cases of suicides or suicide attempts, et cetera. To our astonishment, unhealthy competition among reputed schools in Kathmandu to buy exam centres and produce SLC toppers to attract more students at the outset of each academic year by creating the illusion of quality education had always provoked criticism from the public. So, since 2005, the trend of proclaiming board toppers has been restricted. Notwithstanding prohibition, schools are proclaiming the highest number of GPA 4 achievers publicly. They’re practising the same but with a different approach. This mentality is deeply rooted.

Arbitrary Evaluation

The SLC result has always been condemned because it’s reliant on summative assessment. A three-hour examination cannot reflect student learning and their real capabilities. For this exam determines their further education and career, several students have fallen victim to this examination. When I caught sight of an item of news in Nayapatrika Daily, I was taken aback on account of the number of GPA 4 achievers.

Schools where more than 10 students obtained GPA 4 in SEE20762075
Holy Garden Boarding High School, Ringroad, Balaju32
Joseph High School, Kapan29
Sakari School, Chauni22
V.S. Niketan Secondary School, Min Bhavan19
Paragon Public Ma Vi, Battisputali191
Madan Bhandari Memorial School, Boudha16
Valley View English School, New Baneshwor162
Tarun Ma Vi, Balaju15
Gyanodaya Ma Vi, Old Kalimati151
Metro Secondary School, Thapagaun14
L. Joseph Public School14
Budhanilkantha Boarding School, Budhanilkantha141
Babylon National School, Shantinagar13
Rosebud School, Buddhanagar101
Nexus International Academy, Sinamangal10
Vidhya Sanskar Secondary School, New Baneshwor10

Source: Nayapatrika Daily

This table clearly illustrated how reputed private schools in Kathmandu don’t hesitate to strike the iron while it’s hot. There’re countless schools that have achieved outstanding results this year. However, the results have compelled all the general public to think about the credibility of assessment system, professional ethics and honesty of different schools. In comparison to the previous year’s results, this year 1, 554 students have obtained GPA 4, 1502 more. Is this a remarkable improvement on the last year’s results? Did the teachers teaching in these schools have some charisma last year?  Or, wasn’t the last year’s evaluation fair?

It can also be assumed that these schools and teachers were pressurised by parents into allotting more marks than that they deserved genuinely.  Prof. Bidya Nath Koirala, Head of the Department of Central Department of Education at Tribhuvan University, claims that the result is incredible because the pattern and structure of evaluation done by all the schools aren’t uniform, but arbitrary and haphazard. This also indicates that the Guidelines on Student Evaluation, Result Publication and Authentication 2077 BS prepared by the Secondary Education Board were ignored by schools.

This result has challenged the principle that it’s unnatural to mismatch learning outcome with results. The result has rather made the situation worse—schools and teachers are going to be criticised on a charge of underhand dealings, nepotism, immaturity, lack of professionalism, transitory reputation, and many more faults. The concerned should look into this.  

A Coincidence of ‘Demand and Supply’

Just a few days before I wrote this article I had watched a Hindi movie with English subtitles named ‘Rough Book’ directed by Anant Mahadevan. It touches on the issue of forced education and GPA but in a subtle manner. A dialogue between the principal and the physics teacher in the film coincides with the burning issue that’s being talked about.  The physics teacher expresses her views on Indian education system during her interview for the job. She says: by the time children are in the fifth grade, schools make them addicted to textbooks and tell them the importance of marks so that they study until they turn 25. Two years later, they get a job. And, when they turn 28 or 30, they realise what they want to do with life. In reply, the principal says: well, the reality is demand and supply. Parents demand marks and schools supply that.That’s simple.

Exactly, one of the underlying reasons behind this year’s unexpected results is the principle ‘demand and supply’. Schools compelled parents to pay exorbitant fees over 10 years, and parents also turned the tables by exerting considerable pressure on schools to give good marks as rewards. Some schools must have done this on purpose so that they can stand out from the crowd without considering the probable ramifications of their decision. This was really win-win bargaining.  

 A web of problems

Our education system is also heavily influenced by Indian education system. To some extent, GPA gives a clue about a child’s potential, but it doesn’t reflect the overall talent. Curriculum designers aren’t the implementers; examination boards aren’t student counsellors; Schools aren’t manufacturers of students with same calibre, and teachers aren’t magicians. Parents’ unreasonable demand of GPA 4 or A+’s is not more important than what skills their children develop. In addition, parent’s trend of linking prestige with professionals like doctors, engineers, scientists, pilots, etc. sounds absurd in this era. On top of this, the core of the problem lies in the minimum GPA criterion to receive a scholarship or grant, do a university course, or get better jobs. Whatever a student achieves or learns as a student is overshadowed by GPA or percentage obtained in board exams. I strongly believe that GPA or percentage criteria should be deemed inappropriate in every sphere of life but labelled as one of the minor indicators. Therefore, blaming schools only for such ridiculous results isn’t fair. This is a kind of vicious circle where innocent teachers are caught. 

What’s way-out?

The governments should rethink its educational policies. Parents should accept their child’s weakness and stop coarsing them into excelling in each area. A balance between summative assessment and formative assessment must be struck for fair judgement of student learning. Had we implemented CAS and documented every detail about students, there wouldn’t have been a necessity to rely on the board exam. Most importantly, the government must impose hard-and-fast rules to govern the education system and take strict action against education mafias but support schools that come up with innovative ideas.   

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