Quality continues to remain major challenge

  • The sooner drop-out rates improve, the better it is, say experts
- Binod Ghimire

Mar 21, 2017-

The much talked about school restructuring progamme has come into force after the Legislature-Parliament endorsed an amendment to the Education Act-1972 in June last year, paving the way for major structural reform in school level education.

The four levels—primary, lower secondary, secondary and higher secondary—of school education now have been reduced to two—basic and secondary education. 

The early childhood development, or pre-primary, classes have been brought into mainstream education while the Central Examination Board has replaced the Higher Secondary Education Board and the Office of the Controller of Examination, streamlining national examinations. 

Above all, school education now ends after students appear in grade 12 exam as the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examination how has been phased out.

School restructuring was first conceptualised in 2009 when the government adopted the multi-billion-rupees School Sector Reform Programme (SSRP). But it took eight years for it to come into force. 

When the SSRP was conceptualised, its major goals were: restructuring school education, increasing enrollment (access) and improving quality of education. 

With the enforcement of the school restructuring, there has been significant increase in enrollment. The flash report, the biannual record, of the Department of Education-2016 shows 97 percent of children of schoolgoing age have been enrolled in schools. Similarly, enrollment of girls too has increased significantly with gender parity index reaching 1:1 (girls against boys) in all levels of schooling. Since 2015 girls have outnumbered boys in the School Leaving Certificate (now Secondary Education Examination which began from lastweek). 

But still, when it comes to quality and drop-out rates, much needs to be done. 

SLC results—earlier taken as the main indicator of quality of education—in 2009 stood at 68 percent and the percentage point came down to 48 percent in 2015. After 2015, the government introduced letter grading system. This clearly showed over half of the students could not even grasp 32 percent of knowledge imparted to them. 

The high failure rate in the SLC was one of reasons the government adopted the grading system which does not say pass or fail in mark sheets. 

The evaluation by Education Review Office (ERO) under the Ministry of Education also paints a bleak picture of quality of education imparted in schools. 

The study carried out last year shows learning achievement of third and fifth graders in English, Nepali and Mathematics subjects has been below 50 percent, raising questions about how well schools, both public and private, are imparting education to the students. The ERO which has been carrying out performance study of schoolgoing children since 2011 shows performances has been going down by the year. 

The report revealed that the learning achievement of the students had gone down by 14 percent on an average in 2016, compared to five years back. Even officials at the Ministry of Education agree to the fact that the quality of education is faltering. 

“We have realised that quality in the school education is pessimistic,” said Hari Lamsal spokesperson at Ministry of Education.

He claimed that School Sector Development Programme that has recently been implemented by the Ministry of Education has focused on increasing quality and minimising the drop-out rates among school children. 

The trillion-rupee programme which has replaced the SSRP has prioritised improvement in quality and promoting vocational and technical education in addition to increasing the retention rate among schooling children as drop-out rate remains a major challenge. 

Calculation of the differences in the numbers of students enrolled in grade one a decade ago with those taking Secondary Education Examination gives a broader picture of the drop-out rate of the students in 10 years of their schooling. 

Records at the Department of Education show as many as 1.34 million students were enrolled in around 34,000 public and private schools in 2006 however, just 538,000 students are taking the SEE that started  lastweek. This shows some 796,000 students—around 60 percent of the total enrolled in 2006—left schools before reaching grade 10. 

The DoE records show only 74.3 percent of the children enrolled in Grade 1 reach fifth grade while 45 percent quit school before reaching lower secondary level. 

Just about 40 percent students reach Grade 10. 

Education experts say lack of proper teaching-learning environment in schools is to blame for deteriorating quality of education and high drop-out rate. 

In addition, they claim factors like investment, system of reward and punishment and strong regulations can bring about positive changes in learning achievements. 

“It has to be ensured that schools provide good learning condition to children in enjoyable environment,” said Bishnu Karki, an education expert. He says that teachers, mainly the headmaster of the school, have the primary role in improving teaching-learning environment in schools. 

The experts say there has to be a strong mechanism in place to make teachers responsible by adopting system of reward and punishment. 

Over-politicisation and political patronage to teachers are major challenges when it comes to holding teachers accountable for their failure to carrying out their duties.  

A majority of teachers in public schools are cadres of the political parties while some of them even hold major positions in district and even central committees of the parties.

Published: 21-03-2017 10:05

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