The battle ahead

  • Increase in the number of girls appearing for SLC is heartening, but problems remain
The battle ahead

Mar 17, 2015-For the first time since the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examinations began 80 years ago, more girls than boys will sit for the test, which begins tomorrow. Of the 426,214 regular students taking the exams this year, 50.14 percent (213,710) are girls. Experts claim that this is the outcome of a decade-long investment in education for girl children. The government, for instance, provides scholarship to 50 percent of all female students from marginalised communities at the school level. An increase in the number of female teachers and separate toilets for girls at school has also helped. Nepal has thus achieved gender parity—which measures the ratio of females in comparison to males—in basic education (grades 1 to 8). According to the Department of Education’s Flash I Report 2013/14, the Gender Parity Index is 1.03 for the primary level (grades 1 to 5) and 1.02 for lower secondary (grades 6 to 8). This figure holds for Janajati and Dalit students as well.

These statistics might lead one to draw the conclusion that years of campaigning for education of girl children have finally paid off. Things, however, are not as pleasant as they appear. Girls also account for 60 percent of the students who will be appearing for the SLC under the exempted category—those who failed in more than two subjects in their previous attempt—this year. In addition, parents tend to enrol their sons in private schools while sending their daughters to public institutions. The enrolment of girls in public schools increased from 3,113,556 in 2013 to 3,119,862 in 2014, while enrolment decreased for boys, from 2,899,716 to 2,875,853 during the same period. Last year, only 28 percent of students from public schools managed to pass the SLC, in comparison to 93 percent of students from private schools. Parents, these days, do send their daughters to school but do not seem to see value in investing as much in them as their brothers.  

Not all is fine when it comes to the education of young boys either. The survival rate of boys in grades 6 to 8 is 72 percent while that for girls is 73 percent. Policymakers need to take this difference, however minimal, into account while formulating ways to encourage students to complete school. Anecdotes from across the country show that young boys have little incentive to pursue schooling these days, as they see everyone leaving for work abroad with little to no formal education. To address this problem, school authorities should devise programmes to convince both children and parents about the need for education, which is more than just a means to earn a living. Providing scholarships could be one solution. In the long run, the government must close the gap in the quality of education that children receive at public and private schools. This dual system does not do any good for anyone, particularly girl children.

Published: 18-03-2015 08:35

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