Secondary Education Examinations uncertain amid soaring infectionsThe exams are slated to begin on May 27 but authorities have no alternative plan to adhere to pandemic protocol.
While a large part of the country is under prohibitory orders due to a spike in coronavirus cases, the Central Examination Board is busy printing question papers for the Secondary Education Examinations slated for later this month.
The board has announced the nationwide grade 10 final examinations to begin on May 27. However, at least one third of the country’s districts are under lockdown-like situations with restrictions in mobility and economic activities.
The spike in coronavirus infections prompted the government to impose the prohibitory orders for 15 days in different parts of the country including the Capital in an attempt to break the chain of the second virus wave.
The restrictions will continue till May 14 and the Ministry of Health and Population has said the infections could peak in the next eight weeks. As per the ministry’s projection, it is unlikely that life will return to normalcy anytime soon.
The massive spread of the coronavirus has created uncertainty over the holding of the secondary exams face to face from May 27. Less than a month before the test, the board is yet to think about an alternative if the threat of the pandemic doesn’t subside and is continuing its preparations for in-person exams.
Jung Bahadur Aryal, spokesperson for the board, told the Post that they will consult with the Ministry of Education before taking any decision about changing the examination modality or the exam dates. Around half a million students are eligible for the test this year.
Last year, the government on March 18 decided to postpone the test indefinitely with an increase in Covid-19 cases. Later, when there was no prospect of holding the examinations, the Cabinet decided not to conduct the test and to award certificates to the students based on their performance in internal tests. The respective schools were authorised to prepare the marks ledgers of their students and the board prepared the results accordingly.
However, it was found that many schools inflated the marks supposedly obtained by their students. The number of students getting GPA 4 was exponentially higher than in previous years as schools got the opportunity to mark their wards. While hardly 106 students had secured GPA 4 in 2019, the number increased to 9,319 last year.
Officials at the board had complained that the SEE results were inflated because schools misused the authority to mark their students. Citing this reason, the Cabinet in January decided that in-person tests will be held for the SEE this year while refusing to delegate the authority to provincial governments to conduct the tests. It authorised the board to conduct the examination.
The examination board carried out its preparations based on the Cabinet decision. The Cabinet will have to make new decisions to change the previous decision. The SEE was held in March in normal situations. The government decided to postpone the exams by two months as the students didn’t get to learn properly due to the pandemic.
The pandemic meant a prolonged disruption to classroom learning and necessitated teaching-learning through virtual platforms. Instruction through online, radio and television mediums, however, remained largely ineffective and students had to wait face-to-face learning to resume to cover their course. Now, despite the academic year having been extended to 14 months, it is uncertain when the ongoing academic year concludes.
Experts say the Education Ministry must have been ready with alternative measures, learning from the situation last year. “This is a result of lax preparations and shortsightedness of the government,” Basudev Kafle, a professor at Tribhuvan University, told the Post. “It is not necessary to stick to in-person tests.”
Teachers from various schools say students are confused about the tests following the prohibitory orders. “The students are asking us about the fate of the SEE. However, we have no answer,” Narayan Gautam, acting principal at Padmodaya School in Kathmandu, told the Post. “The government must make students clear about the test.”