Praveen Kumar Yadav
The Office of the Controller of Examination (OCE) declared another “successful” SLC this year, despite multiple incidents of violating exam code of conduct. SLC was held across the country this year from March 20 to 28, 2014. Over half million students appeared in the SLC exams, which many of them still perceive as the Iron Gate, which is cruelly known to have slammed on more young individuals than it has opened up life opportunities for.
According to OCE, 1,836 exam centers were set up across the country in order to conduct the SLC exams for 566,085 students, including 419,352 regular and 146,733 exempted this year. However, some students were disqualified to appear in the exams this year since their attendance in grade 10 was below 75 per cent. Only students with 75 per cent attendance in grade 10 are eligible to take the SLC examinations, as per the Education Act. For instance, 162 students, including 88 boys and 74 girls in Khotang, and 644 in Rupandehi district were not eligible to sit in the exams, according to District Education Offices. Compared to private schools, the number of those disqualified for the examinations is higher in community schools.
This year’s SLC exams witnessed few changes in previous practice such as restriction of the provision for home centers in the schools. The government had allowed home centers for the SLC exams during the Maoist insurgency, with an aim to prevent unpleasant happenings. But, at many home centers a large number of incidents of violence were reported and consequently, the OCE had amended the Examination Management Regulations 2011 a few months ago, before the exams began.
Some days earlier than the exams began, the OCE had circulated that the exams would be conducted in a disciplined and a sober manner this year. Conversely, the irregularities during the exams, though lesser in comparison to the previous ones, were witnessed in different places as the trend of breaching the exams code continued.
The cheating trend and irregularities in the exams continued this year too in eight districts of the Tarai (Parsa, Bara, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahattari, Dhanusha, Siraha and Saptari), which are mostly eyed on for various reasons and also termed as sensitive ones. Many students and invigilators were expelled for their misconduct. In Dhanusha, one of those sensitive districts, police had to open several rounds of bullets in the air to disperse the mob of agitating examinees and guardians, following a scuffle between the students and police personnel on March 24, 2014. In the incident, two examinees and a policewoman had sustained serious injuries. As a result, the test of social studies paper was cancelled at three exam centers on the fifth day of this year’s SLC exams.
The Terai is not the only region where irregularities in the SLC exams were reported from, there were reports from the Hills as well. 11 exam invigilators were expelled in Humla district after they were found involving in violating the exam regulations, i.e., helping students to answer the question papers.
But this year, unlike previously, the OCE has declared the provision of conducting no re-exams for the students in those centers where locals, guardians, teachers or the students themselves disrupted the exams for whatsoever reason.
The students heavily rely on textbooks or guess papers for the exams and most portion of the evaluation system except in few weightage in practical test of compulsory subjects like English, population studies and optional subjects like computer is written. Again, the practical test in those subjects is seen to have been ineffectiveness and raise a question mark due to lack of proper conduct and effective monitoring mechanism.
Now let us give a glance over the results of the SLC Exams. Last year the country witnessed the dismal results of the Iron Gate for higher studies (41.57 per cent), which is five per cent lower when compared to 2012. This is the lowest percentage results in the last five years. The statistics shows that 90% out of those who fail their SLC exams, fail in core subjects such as Mathematics, English and Science. In this gloomy situation in the backdrop, the Ministry of Education (MoE) had argued that the teachers are to blame for the decline in the public education sector. However, the issue of teacher accountability is not that straightforward. Based on need assessment, the teachers needs to be trained and supervised properly before they are made accountable.
To conclude, conducting fair exams is still a challenging job in Nepal, which is yet to adopt other alternative modes of evaluation system than written exam in secondary schooling system. Although our SLC doesn’t seem to be serving any different purpose than the Chinese “gao kao” or American “SAT”, it is high time we started conversation on how we can make it unique, more acceptable, and more respectable. Until and unless teachers, students, test makers, policy makers, and guardians and other counterparts do not opt for the easiest and the most reliable way to conduct exams with creative techniques, keeping in mind the students enjoy while appearing in the tests, the exams will always remain to be the IRON GATE for the examinees. It is high time the government of Nepal and concerning stakeholders pay due attention to rectify the exam system, which is an integral part of the education system.
Praveen Kumar Yadav