by Earle Canfield
Like a sloth hanging upside down and inching along a limb in a rainforest, the educational system in Nepal is slowly evolving since it was formulated 80 years ago. With the adaptation of the UN’s Millennium Goals, primary school enrollment (grades 1-5) has inched up from 60% to 90% of school age children over the past 20 years. The new constitution includes a provision stating that free primary school education must be available to all. Next year, the 10 year + 2 year primary and secondary school system is to fuse into a 12 year system like ours. ANSWER and others are totally in the dark as to what repercussions will come from this, e.g., will tuition costs for college grades 11-12 remain the same or come down?
Last month (July), 437,000 students who took their SLC exams received their results, but this time they received letter grades (A, B, C…with its respective GPA equivalents 4.0, 3.7, 3.5…) instead of percentage mark (72.83%). This has caused a lot of confusion within the school systems and among students and families.
Without instituting other SLC exam reforms that were recommended by a panel 12 years ago, this essentially does nothing to improve the educational system itself except double the number of students who pass (from 40% to 80%). Since nearly all of our students attend private schools and pass with As and Bs anyhow, they have been minimally impacted.
What’s Going On? No one is quite sure….it is, to be honest, mixed up with party politics. The power elite send all their students to private schools which have exploded in numbers since 1972 when first legislated. However, it is interesting to note that these changes have been implemented after the approval of the new constitution and at least point in a direction of greater democratization in society at large.
That more students pass and can advance to Grades 11 and 12 is a good thing in and of itself, but is meaningless without changes to the curriculum, teaching practices, textbooks, etc. It is essentially a dumbing down! Thus, much more needs to be done as the gulf between private school education and public keeps widening. In disadvantaged families, instead of boys getting an education and girls staying at home as before, the boys are being sent to private schools while the girls are sent to public schools.
ANSWER has from the beginning (2001) been sending our disadvantaged children to private schools which explains their high rate of success. But more than that, we have also favored girls 2:1 over boys, and when we send a girl to a private school, her family then is almost forced to send the boys there, too! If and when the educational system does effectively change in the future, you can be sure that many of our bright, young women will have had something to do with it!!