Three Myths about Science

 

As the complimentary SLC examination has just finished (August 4-11) in which those examinees, who have failed in not more than two subjects in the final test are permitted to sit for, questions arise whether their pass percentage will influence the overall performance of schools. These candidates are more likely to pass the examination for two reasons.

Based on the conversation that I had with some of the secondary level teachers, including some Head Masters, in the last few weeks, my feeling is that the examinees have better chance of passing because they are not required to divide their attention to a large number of subjects this time. Concentrating on the subject or subjects (not exceeding two) gives them an extra time of preparation and resultantly they can obtain the pass marks. Some of the candidates score excellent marks and are placed in the first division too.

Secondly, as I was told, the examiners tend to be more liberal in evaluating the answer sheets in this regard, probably considering the fact that they had been examined before. Failing in a few subjects sometimes puts the students in an awkward position even though they get through in complementary examination later.

It is not the timing only because +2 level courses have already begun from Asar last whereas these candidates will have to wait a few more weeks to get their result that makes them losers in some respect. Missing classes for a few weeks is less challenging than the unfair treatment meted out to them. They elicit less respect even though their performance is no less excellent as their peers who passed in the final examination.

Here comes the first myth related to science that this writer intends to discuss in this column as he has been persistently involved to look for deserving students who could undertake science course at +2 level in a community school in Parbat district, where he volunteers as an ex-student.

Whenever one talks about the prospective science students, unfortunately the candidates of complimentary examination are in most cases not considered favorably. In rural areas where the number of such examinees is on the increase due to understandable reasons (lack of qualified subject teachers, poor infrastructure and education materials etc.), the problem is more serious. None will under such circumstances think of joining +2 science even after obtaining reasonably good marks in core subjects (English, Mathematics, Science) in SLC complimentary examination.

One of the most objectionable attitudes that we have been accustomed to is that once a student fails in an examination then we start condemning him or her from the time results are out. Had we not been a victim of such mentality, we would not have met with parents who scold their wards so harshly that by failing in the SLC they believe that their children have committed the greatest sins on earth.

This behavior of guardians vis-a-vis their daughters is so disgusting that some of the students have taken their own lives being unable to bear the humiliation of failure. Such practice, prevalent not only among illiterate parents but even among those, who have secondary or higher level education, makes it difficult to break the myth that comes with complimentary examination.

There are indeed some examples of students doing very good in +2 science program despite the fact that they passed the SLC complimentary examination. Such illustration, however, is hard to come by in the rural areas.

Moreover, the traditional notion that first division holders with distinction marks are the only suitable candidates for pursuing science course at the college level is also responsible for developing the myth that no one with lower division marks can be capable of undertaking +2 science course.

Those with higher marks in SLC have been the best choices for all colleges in admission into +2 level in science stream but not necessarily all of them have been performing better than those with lower percentage of marks. Here the writer is inclined to recall Nirmal Thapa, a blogger and a faculty member of Apex College, who has convincingly presented his ideas that grades are not everything. Apparently someone with good marks in the academic examination may be a talented person, but in real life situation he or she may not have a successful career. Grades are not the final determinants of individuals’ success.

Even in examinations later some students who have rankings in SLC have produced disappointing results and conversely those with second division marks have performed far better than expected. Therefore, one should not rule out the possibility that students with lower marks can pursue science at the +2 level provided they have the will power to perform and work hard with utmost dedication to their duties.

To substantiate this contention I would like to take an example from Bhawani Vidyapeeth HSS, Phalewash, Parbat, the school which I attended in the mid-1960s and in the late 1970s where I taught, which has been running science stream since 2069 B.S. In this school we had a student from a community school in Arjewa, Baglung with 60 % of marks in SLC and another from a private boarding school, Kusma, Parbat, who was placed in first division with distinction (84%).

Everyone assumed that the one from the boarding school scoring higher marks would outperform her peer from a rural-based community school in Arjewa. But astonishingly the girl with 60% marks has surpassed her classmate with 84% marks in many subjects in all school tests, including the Pre-Board (Higher Secondary Education Board) examination of grade XI science. The final results are awaited any way.

Last but not the least is the myth that to be eligible for science, he or she needs to have Mathematics as one of his or her optional subjects in SLC. This is untenable though a student with optional Mathematics can have some edge over others who have different optional subjects. We have numerous examples of students having no optional Mathematics performing no less at +2 science level and in some cases even better than those with Mathematics as one of the optional subjects.

Fostering science program is essential to producing the technical manpower so indispensible for country’s development Such campaign is much more urgent to expand in the rural areas, where many gifted students have been debarred from undertaking science course not only because they lack the opportunities (in Parbat district only 3 schools have science program out of 80) but also that there are ingrained myths prevalent among us. Woefully, such misconception has engulfed the so-called teachers, guardians, community leaders and government officials. Let’s try to break such misconceptions and advance the campaign of science in community schools in villages. By so doing we can fully utilize the hidden treasures.

Will the Nepal government heed to this clarion call?

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