Bridge the gapDisparity between public and private schools a reason for falling grades of students in SEE
The Office of the Controller of Examinations (OCE) on Saturday published the results of the Secondary Education Examination (SEE) showing a falling performance of students. Despite tall claims about improvement in the quality of education, the share of students not scoring grades required for admission into the higher level has increased compared to last year. Among the 451,532 examinees from both regular and technical streams, 58,688—12.99 percent—secured Grade Point Average lower than 1.25. The share of poorly performing students in the lowest grade range was 2.65 percent last year. Out of the total number of students who appeared in the SEE, around 85 percent of the students were from public school. The poor result is a reflection of the growing gap in terms of quality between the public and private education sectors.
Public education in the country has seen a steady decline after the 90s. If anything, over the years, it has kept on perpetuating the disparity between the rich and the poor. There is widespread romaticisation of private school as the benchmark of education. Education is increasingly being seen as a consumer service that is directly related to an individual’s financial capital. This has thus morphed education into a class issue where the haves go to expensive private schools while the have-nots have no choice but to attend public schools. But education should not just be the province of the elite.
Public school teachers have job security, pension benefits, bonuses and a decent salary. But despite all this, performance is much better in private schools. One of the reasons for this could be that private schools have the pressure to perform well to stay competitive in the market. However, public schools seem to be complacent, and thus don’t have the same drive to perform. According to a recent report prepared by the Education Review Office (ERO) under the Ministry of Education, 57 percent of the teachers in public schools were not punctual. Schools and teachers in general were also found reluctant to neither give assignments nor provide feedback to students hence preventing the students from boosting their achievement.
Public education is critically important yet, politicisation of education has long plagued this sector. To make public schools competitive, underperforming schools and teachers should be held accountable. Incompetent teachers usually find cover in party affiliation which makes it difficult for school management to reprimand them. Also, while according to global standards, 20 percent of the total budget needs to be allotted to the education sector, in the fiscal year 2016/17, but the government of Nepal (GoN) allocated only 11.6 percent of the budget for the education sector. This amount is not adequate since all the amount goes into paying salary or maintaining infrastructure; hardly any amount is left for purchasing additional resources. This should change.
Education plays an important role in the growth of any country. The challenge would be to make public schools competitive and attractive, while making them accessible. To do so, at the core are the teachers. And when they are held accountable, it will reflect in the grades too.