The class divide

  • Year after year, poor SLC results show the gulf between public and private schools runs deep
The class divide

Jun 17, 2014-On the face of it, the results of the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examinations held four months ago are better than last year’s. But on a closer

look, there is not much to rejoice about. Last year, only 41.57 percent  students passed. This year, there was a two-point increment in the pass percentage at

43.92—173,436 students out of the 394,933 cleared the Grade 10 exams.

What is most worrying is merely 28.19 percent of students from public schools passed in comparison to a remarkable 93.26 percent from private schools. According to the Office of the Controller of Examinations, three-fourths of the 320,100 candidates from community schools flunked SLC. This is despite the fact that the Ministry of Education invested Rs 800 billion in education in the past 10 years—only 13 percent of students enrolled in Grade One a decade ago passed the SLC exams.

The poor performance of public schools, however, is not only a case of bad academic performance. It is an outcome of multiple problems students in government schools face—from distant schools, insufficient rooms and amenities, lack of toilets for girl students, absentee teachers, to arrivals of textbooks well into the academic session, if at all. The problems get worse the more remote the school is. And still these students get compared with their counterparts who go to well-endowed private schools in the cities.

There is a need to re-evaluate the public school system. It is important to keep in view the varied requirements owing to the students’ geographical, cultural and linguistic backgrounds. According to the Flash Report 2012-13 of the Ministry of Education, 33 languages—including Maithili, Tamang, Doteli, Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Tharu—are widely used at the primary level for teaching in public schools, for example. While this is commendable, there is a need to ensure that the transition beyond the primary level is handled well too.

But there are a number other areas that also need to be looked into. For instance, public schools adopt a liberal class promotion policy until Grade 7 under which students who fail to clear two subjects are promoted. The idea is to encourage students and assist them in courses they have difficulty with through continuous assessment. But in the absence of regular evaluation and adequate help in subjects like science, maths and English (which have high rates of SLC failures) students remain weak. The focus, therefore, should be on helping students grasp the basics of a subject from early on rather than dealing with the problem once they reach secondary grades—Grade 9 and 10, as classified by the government.

We would like to stress here that the apathy of political leaders, an overwhelming proportion of whom attended public schools, towards improving government schools is simply appalling. Our leaders do not seem to realise that ensuring quality education is a sound long-term investment. Poor SLC results only go on to show each year that they are yet to realise this.

 

Published: 18-06-2014 10:48

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