Who Is Responsible?

The most frequently-asked question in the aftermath of the frustrating results of last SLC examination is who needs to be held accountable to what has happened in having about 58 % of examinees failing the test. Shockingly, the trend this year has beaconed to a future where more prospective students of higher education will be deprived of an opportunity to pursue +2 level course whatsoever may be their choice of careers.

A number of formal and informal meetings were organized once the nation was stunned to hear the news on Jestha 28 that only 42 per cent of all who appeared at the final examination of SLC (2069) were declared successful. Such discussion despite their usefulness will hardly serve any purpose unless existing defective educational policy is corrected and reform is put in place strictly.

Although the so-called institutional schools about 6000 in the country have done well at least in terms of pass percentage, the community schools numbering almost 29000, attended by 83% of all school-going children have performed so low (pass % is 27.97) that any conscious citizen of this country would be ashamed of oneself finding 17% of Nepal’s total annual budget (2069-70) allocated to the education sector spent with little unproductivity.

The blame game is on with teachers not accepting the responsibility and shifting the burden to indifferent guardians and more worryingly the school management committees are not in majority cases at all interested to know as to what led to the poor results. Exceptions are everywhere and some community schools have repeatedly produced excellent results but are those which are failing in their missions passing none or only a few (10-15%) prepared to learn lessons from their mistakes? This is a  puzzling question to all of us.

In this connection the author of this piece has been confused to find the lack of interest on the part of the school management committee to hold a review meeting related to SLC results in the area where he has been volunteering for more than a year. Seemingly, the writer’s Alma Mater, Bhawani Vidyapeeth Higher Secondary School, a community school in Parbat outside the district headquarters has performed comparatively better (pass % is 52), still then its moral duty is to look seriously at the fact why 48 % of their students could not get through the SLC examination.

Shouldn’t the teachers be forthcoming in organizing such review and come to conclusions? They should but of course they would be disinclined to do so because of politicking and indifference displayed by the school management committee to an issue of such national concern. The role of the guardians cannot be underestimated here though they would mostly be guided by what their community leaders have been doing vis-à-vis school management.

It is against this background that one needs to make a comparison between the committees that manage the institutional schools (private boarding) and the community schools, whose expenses are borne by the government in paying the salaries of such schools. This is why the community school teachers have been sarcastically nicknamed as Jawai Sahebs (son-in-law) of Nepal government. Some critics opine that the teachers being fully paid from the state coffers but bearing no accountability to eroding academic performance with resultant higher % of failed students in SLC and the guardians not required to pay any fees of their children to the school are some of the major roadblocks that have indeed crippled the functioning of the community schools for several decades.

More encouragingly, the Office of the Controller of Examination, the Education Ministry attempted to enforce a certain level of discipline inside the examination centers throughout the country this year albeit some centers were exhibiting the worst scenario with students packed with education materials to apply unfair means and befool the so-called invigilators.

Notwithstanding the limitations on the part of the Office of the Controller of Examinations, the way the last SLC examination was conducted one must admit that it has at least disseminated the strong message that no copying from the books or the answer sheets of co-examinees will be permitted without being reprimanded as usual.

Looking at the performance of many schools including both community and institutional ones, it has been established that more students have failed or could not secure higher marks this year and one of the main reasons for this is nothing but the code of conduct enforced like allowing no home centers and sudden visit of the examination centers by the officials from the concerned district education offices.

Seen from the lens of those who had been enjoying the excellent results i.e. 100% pass percentage and majority of successful examinees with first division for several years, the enforcement of above code of conduct proved disastrous. They were mostly the Principals of institutional schools in district headquarters and also from the community schools in the villages, whose SLC results had been attractive not because the teaching standard was really good but because they were smart in arranging the seat plans for their students in way that provided the examinees the chance to copy from those who were comparatively better students.

As one of the volunteers attached to his Alma Mater in Phalewash, Parbat where they have run +2 science program since 2069, this scribe had been in consultations with a number of teachers from both community and institutional in the surrounding areas in the wake of the publication of SLC results. The writer’s findings are shocking.

A number of Principals and Headmasters of those schools have shamelessly blamed the government agencies involved in the examination alleging that their frequent checks of the examination halls made the examinees nervous. Had the students been trained in doing their tests by themselves, there is no reason why they should feel nervous about this.

The reform in examination is a continuous process and it needs the partnership from all the stakeholders, the teachers, the guardians and the community and more so the school management committees. Whatever was done this time was not perfect from all aspects but improvement can be affected if we all are determined to see that fair examination is the only way to truly find out the performance of the students.

Blame game is no panacea but the teachers should bear the highest responsibility in bringing about desirable change in teaching environment and once atmospherics is turned conducive there will be no competition to produce better results even by applying dirty tricks. Getting more students pass the Iron Gate through foul means is akin to committing a crime of morality, whoever the criminals are, the teachers, or guardians, or school management committees, and government officials.

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