It’s not the studentsA high failure rate for years warrants urgent investigation.
188,410—That's the number of teenage students whose lives have turned upside down since Friday, as 52 percent of the 363,008 examinees who had appeared in the grade 12 examinations held in June couldn't make it through.
For the thousands of these students who "failed" to score a minimum of 35 percent marks in the theory exams and 40 percent in the practical exams in at least one subject, their lives have been put on hold while they bear the brunt of psychological ailing.
But this is not the first time there has been a decline in academic performance in grades 11 and 12 or even the Secondary Education Examination, for that matter. The results published on Friday and in previous years indicate a dangerous trend over the years, with pass rates consistently hovering below 50 percent. The decline in the pass rate has not only put a big question on the future of our children/youth, but also challenged the letter grading system introduced six years ago without a concrete strategy and investment to pull it off.
For starters, take another ambitious feature in our constitution, which states there shall be compulsory and free education up to the basic level (grade 8) and free education up to the secondary level (grade 12) from the state. Adopting best practices to improve equitable access to education is noble, but it takes more than a two-thirds vote to implement and invest in the idea.
Implementing is precisely where the government repeatedly fails, which is evidence that the government's plan to improve the education system has neither the strategy nor the money. As a result, we fail our teachers and schools, which are integral to our social and cultural infrastructure. The worst hit are the students who lack the resources and a conducive learning environment.
Tribhuvan University officials say the government doesn't provide enough funds for the 3,522 community schools that run classes for grades 11 and 12. It only pays the salaries of 6,000 teachers hired in temporary positions. A 2018 study estimated that 7,800 additional teachers are needed for grades 11 and 12. The study also found an acute shortage of teachers to teach English, mathematics and science.
Our challenges will only grow in the fast-changing world of information and communications. And clearly, our education system is too archaic to handle the inevitable big changes. Besides scant curriculum changes and sparse didactic practices in the past decade, the government hasn't shown the political will to reshape the education system or update it to meet the country's future needs.
Nepal's pursuit of prosperity cannot take shape until we reshape our education system and reform our ways of teaching and learning. There are no two ways about it. Thousands of students will continue to be victims of another catastrophic consequence of the government's symptomatic treatment of most issues ailing our country, which rarely identifies the underlying causes—a high failure rate for years warrants urgent investigation.
It's not the students.