Cabinet decides to hold Secondary Education Examinations centrallyThe decision is against the spirit of federalism envisioned in the constitution, provincial officials say.
Rejecting suggestions from its social committee, the Cabinet on Monday decided to conduct grade ten exams centrally.
The National Examinations Board, in coordination with the provincial education directorates, will now conduct the exams.
“The Ministry of Law said the government has to issue an ordinance to revise the existing Education Act to delegate the authority,” a personal aide to Education Minister Krishna Gopal Shrestha told the Post. “The Cabinet then decided to conduct the exams centrally, instead of issuing an ordinance.”
Making public the government’s decision on Tuesday, Minister for Communications and Information Technology Parbat Gurung said the authority to hold the Secondary Education Examination lies with the National Examination Board.
Following demands from provincial governments, the committee had last month suggested that the Cabinet authorise the provincial social development ministries to conduct the examinations.
Headed by the home minister, the social committee has eight other ministers, including the education minister, women, and children affairs minister, and the health minister as members. The law minister is not in the committee.
The eighth amendment to the Education Act in 2016 had opened the door for the decentralisation of the exams, allowing provinces to conduct the exams on their own.
The Cabinet’s social committee had recommended the government to allow the provinces to conduct the exams as they replaced the erstwhile development regions after the 2017’s election. According to Shrestha’s aide, the law minister said allowing provinces to conduct the test would be illegal until a law specifically makes provisions for it.
The examination board in October last year had proposed to the education ministry to take a call on which authority is to be allowed to conduct the tests. With the ministry remaining undecided, the board, a month later started the registration process for the test.
The process to conduct the Secondary Education Examination usually starts in August with the registration of students and concludes in June the next year with the publication of the results. But the exams were delayed this year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, and as a result, the registration began in November.
“We are yet to get notified about the government’s decision. However, we had already begun our preparation following the delay in the Cabinet’s decision,” Chandra Mani Poudel, chairperson at the board, told the Post. The board had proposed to conduct the exams in mid-June this year.
The provincial governments, however, have taken an exception to the decision. They say they had little hope that the federal government with the centralised mindset would decide to delegate the authority to conduct the exam.
“I have no knowledge about the development,” Nawal Kishore Sah, minister for social development, Province 2, told the Post. “I am not surprised because the present government doesn’t respect the spirit of federalism.” Apart from printing the answer sheets, the provincial governments have no authority in conducting the examinations.
Constitutional experts say the development is yet another example of fraud to the constitution. They say it is disappointing that the government, which didn’t prioritise the drafting of laws as envisioned in the constitution for around three years, is citing old laws to centralise everything.
“The sequence of events shows that the delay in drafting the federal laws was a deliberate attempt to delay the decentralisation of authority,” Raju Prasad Chapagain, chairperson of Constitutional Lawyers’ Forum, told the Post. “Citing old laws to centralise authority is no excuse.”
The government is yet to draft the Federal Education Act that shall delegate the authority on education to different tiers of government. The constitution doesn’t give the federal government any authority over school education. However, five years after the promulgation of the constitution, no step has been taken to draft the law.
Instead, the government on December 20 decided to dissolve the House of Representatives, closing doors for the promulgation of laws needed to implement federalism.
The House of Representatives was dissolved with over 55 bills, most of which were important to implement federalism, pending. The provincial governments, despite having their own provincial public service commissions, haven’t been able to hire civil servants. Similarly, the fate of the citizenship bill and other federal laws have been pushed into uncertainty after the dissolution of the House.