SEE results, +2 options and Addressing corruption in higher education

Kathmandu - This week the media followed different dimensions of the result of SEE published last week. It also explored different dimensions of +2 education with different opinion and feature articles about the different subject and carrier options, the changing curriculum and fee regulation. The week followed multiple news of corruption and irregularities in TU, medical education and action against the officials of the university.  There were multiple opinion articles on the raising gap between private and public school exposed in the SEE results.  There was coverage of international news about a French university scraping entrance exam to widen enrolment inclusivity.   

Abbreviations: MOEST- Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, TU- Tribhuwan University,  TUSC- TU Service Commission, KD- Kantipur Daily, THT- The Himalayan Times, SEE- Secondary Education Examination

-    A feature article discussed about the slow transition towards letter grading system, as the government has not been able to clearly communicate about the system and the benefits of letter grading system to the school personals and broader society. The idea was that the letter grading system would serve as a better measure of student intelligence. But without necessary scientific measures to back it up, the new grading system is only confusing students and teachers alike. The advantage of the letter grading system was discussed as the lack of demarcation between pass and fail grades which could stop a child from being labeled as a failure at a small age. The article also identified government’s habit of cherry-picking research based policy suggestions that has led to the grading system, which is ineffective. The article mentions that Bidhyalaya Shiksha Aksharankan Paddati Karyanwayan Karyabidhi (working procedure to implement letter grading system) states that the curriculum for school level subjects will be updated to suit the letter grading system after it has been implemented. The letter grading system is based on the idea that the human mind cannot be measured exactly, but should be measured in a range. Since the government has simply translated marks to performance bands, the use of letter grading has not been scientific. The idea of liberal promotion, in which there is no demarcation between pass and fail grades, has a positive effect only when the government can properly turn students with low grades towards vocational training professions.

The article clearly mentions that there is more to be done to make letter grading system efficient, and for the society to grab the idea behind it. It has discussed about the effort to transform the evaluation systems at classroom level, and about the efforts for continuous education opportunity for all through this system.

-    Tribhuvan University has decided to form a high-level academic committee and upgrade its technology to curb anomalies taking place in the university. It has also decided to amend its rules and regulations after some of its officials were found involved in altering the marks of students and job applicants.

An editorial in THT followed the news stating that the irregularities in TU was far more deeper and needed bolder decision and would not be sufficient with formation of one committee. TU’s decision had come in the wake of accusations that marks were altered on the mark-sheets at the TU Office of the Controller of Examination, Balkhu to make an ineligible student eligible for a gold medal. It states that TU is a playground for the political parties, where the officials, teachers and students affiliated to the different parties promote their party ideology and programs. Thus the success of the committee and the measures TU takes to curb its anomalies will largely depend on the political will to change for the better. It calls for TU to concentrate on academic activity like a true university to enhance its credibility.

-  An opinion article about restructuring public school was also published this week. It argues that the notion that education should be a public good has time and again been challenged by the failing state and the abysmal records demonstrated by public schools. It rightly argues that the major problem with public education is lack of accountability. The public school teachers are paid by the state regardless of their physical presence in the school. These teachers who turn up sporadically have little or no fear of being fired as public schools operate from seemingly perpetual funds. The writer purposes an education voucher system as an alternative. It is an arrangement whereby the state and/or municipal government hands out a certain percentage of the cost of education of a student in form of a cash voucher. This cash voucher acts as actual money substitute that the student can use to attend an ‘approved’ school of his/her choice (either public or private).  This the writer states will increases accountability of public schools owing to a sense of ownership by students and parents. The direct transfer of money also ensures accountability and better motivated teachers, as they will no longer be able to rely on a perennial income regardless of their performance. School vouchers not only induce competition between private and public schools but also reduce education budget mismanagement as well as corruption levels the article states.

Another opinion article defends public school teachers arguing 2,792 students from public school  got A+ grade, are being solely blamed for rest of the students' bad results. The article urges that socio-economic context of the students and parents of private and public schools also needs consideration while comparing results between public and private. This is an important argument while comparing result of public and private schools. The analysis of socio-economic transformation in the life and family of the students if evaluated with consideration to the base of the status of the parents, would definitely give a very different picture. In many cases, public schools are serving children who could be the first generation attaining schools. Despite this argument, the fact that teachers are unaccountable in public schools and calls for systemic change in approach to running public schools can’t be denied.

-  The government has introduced National Examinations Board Rules to improve the standard of school examination. The rules come into effect following their publication in the Nepal Gazette, last week. The provisions stipulated in the rules to make National Examination Board responsible and accountable towards putting an end to existing anomalies in the school examination system. Key functions, duties and power of the board include approval of programs for improvement of examination system by identifying its weaknesses through study, research and evaluation. It is also empowered to manage human resource required for the board, verify educational certificates and credentials in accordance with the records maintained by the board and to carry out necessary activities to reform the examination system.

-  This is a very important step in the right direction. Reformation of the evaluation system and exam approach can transform the way classrooms are run, and dictate the motives of the teachers and the school management. More continuous and inclusive evaluation system, could make schools and education more relevant to the societal needs of the present time, thus making it more efficient and could contribute to higher enrolment rate and reduction in dropout rate at the same time.

-  Top French university Sciences Po was reported to scrap its famous entrance exam in a bid to attract students from lower income backgrounds. From September 2021, applicants will instead sit a distance interview, after an initial selection based on their schoolwork, exam results and motivation. Foreign students and students from priority education areas who make up just over half of applicants are already exempt from the exam. The Paris Institute of Political Studies, or ‘Sciences Po’, is an elite university which counts French President Emmanuel Macron and women’s rights icon Simone Veil among its alumni. “We want to create a clearer, fairer and more efficient system to ensure we attract a more diverse range of profiles,” the school’s director Frederic Mion was quoted in the news. Prestigious institutions such as Britain’s Oxford and Cambridge have pumped up efforts to recruit students from more diverse social and ethnic backgrounds in recent years amid accusations of elitism.

Other news and material covered this week included Nepal army open contact office to speed up the process to open Defense University, students regularly evaluating newspapers as part of the curriculum activity, school for deaf to be made a model school of province 3, difficulty to bring Madarasha into mainstream education system, Nepali being taught in Australia, Supreme Court orders BPKIHS to halt admissions in stand of a case filed about law breached while calling for seats.

'Education this Week' is a joint effort put to analyze the press coverage of education in Nepal’s selected print media published in Kathmandu. The main aim of this effort is to identify and explain major education issues picked up by the media and give back and foreground of the news. This, we believe, will help policy makers and other responsible people to keep abreast with ongoing concerns and discussions on and around education. EduKhabar, in collaboration with the Center for Educational Policies and Practices (CEPP) , has produced this analysis based on the news printed in Kantipur (Nepali) and The Himalayan Times (English), Dailies, Himal Weekly(Nepali) and (international online portal) between July 3-9, 2019 (Asar 18-24, 2076) - Editor.

Read last week’s analysis : Secondary Education Examination and Medical Higher Education

Read this analysis in Nepali : उच्च शिक्षाको भ्रष्टाचार, एसईई नतिजा र प्लस टु का विकल्प

All analysis read by this link : Education This week