SLC 2016: Iron Gate finally comes falling down (Commentary)

SLC resultBy Manoj Karki / Kathmandu: The results of the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examinations were something that hundreds of thousands of students and their parents early awaited at the end of every academic year in the country.

With the SLC results almost deciding the fate of a student’s future as far as their eligibility to higher education was concerned, it was indeed something that students, teachers and parents alike longed for. And the results would always bring happiness as well as sorrows to the face of students and their parents, with a majority of students in Nepal facing the brunt of the numerical grading system. Pass percentage was on an average forty percent, and a significant number of students from community or government schools failed to go through what was then dubbed the ‘Iron Gate’.

The reaction to the results however in 2016 was totally different, with the government introducing the Grade Point Average or GPA system. The GPA system was a departure from the previously practiced ‘pass or fail’, ‘first or second or third division’ system. The new system was introduced almost after eight decades of practising the old system based on marks or numbers.

As a result of the new system, in theory none of the 615,553 students including from the regular and exempted category that appeared in SLC examinations 2016 ‘failed’. Though those passing with ‘D’ and ‘E’ grades would not be eligible to pursue higher secondary education in subjects like science, they could still take up vocational subjects under the technical stream. The students were categorized from outstanding (with GPA of 4.0) to very inefficient (GPA of 0.8) under the new category, thereby putting an end to the discrimination between the students based on the scores they received in the exams.

Students scoring less than 1.6 GPA will continue higher education but under the vocational education. The Office of the Controller of Examinations has also provided an opportunity for students with ‘D’ and ‘E’ grades a chance exam now called grade upgrade exams in order to help them improve their grades. As a result, the students get a second opportunity to improve their grades and thereby opt for subjects of their choice in higher secondary education.

The introduction of the new system of evaluation for the SLC examinees effective this year gave room for debating new issues while some regular matters for discussion remained under shadow. One point of discussion after every SLC result was the difference in the quality of education in community or government and private or institutional schools. The government, especially the Education Ministry would always be criticized for the poor percentage of students who would have passed from the community schools. Talks of a social division created as a result of the two kinds of education based on the same evaluation system would also feature. However, both these issues were left under a shadow this time around with the new system in place.

This is not to say that the quality of education in community schools has increased as a result of the GPA evaluation system. Community school students are usually poor in subjects like Science, Mathematics and English, and the new system will bar them from taking up education in the science stream, which requires a certain average in the core subjects along the set GPA average. Nevertheless, students from the community schools, who would have otherwise failed and forced to repeat Grade 10, will now be leaving school and taking up higher education on other relatively less challenging subjects like humanities and vocational subjects.

Hopefully, the new evaluation system will also do away with the increasing trend of students opting for bridge education in order to get enrolled for science, engineering and other technical subjects. Until now, students who have passed the SLC are forced to sit for entrance exams by the respective 10+2 colleges in order to get admission for subjects and college of their choice. The GPA system sheds light on the strength and weakness of students in a particular subject and as a whole too, so that would help the college screen the students and get them admitted accordingly. This way, students will also save time and money in opting for BRIDGE courses soon after they have finished with the SLC examinations.

Another challenge that the GPA evaluation system has brought up is whether there are enough colleges to receive the relatively large number of students who are now eligible for higher secondary education. Until now less than 50 per cent of the students appearing in the SLC exams would have been eligible for the college level, but it has now increased to more than 80 per cent this year. Though there are around 7,400 community and private colleges and higher secondary schools across the country, it may be difficult as many students opt for urban centre to pursue higher education. The government needs to upgrade the infrastructure and quality of education in colleges, community and private, in the rural parts of the country in order to ease the pressure of students going to colleges in the urban centres.

Furthermore, the government has scrapped the 10-year schooling system with the latest amendment in the Education Act and SLC will now be held after 12 years of schooling at the national level. Provincial-level exams will be held at the end of Grade 10. This means this was the last batch of the 10-year SLC examinations system, and these students will have to face another SLC two years later, to be called the Higher Secondary School Leaving Certificate or HSSLC examinations.

Notwithstanding few shortcomings, the new evaluation system introduced by the government in par with the international standard of academic evaluation is a welcome step and could prove productive in the long-term, provided the education authorities work to remove some of the ambiguities in the system and add it up with a better teaching-learning environment, especially in the community schools across the country. RSS

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