KATHMANDU, Aug 8: When it comes to crossing the ‘iron gate’ of schooling years, SLC, there are three major hurdles that most students in public schools falter at – English, Math and Science. Like for many students in public schools, Indra Shrestha and Poonam Ghimire, both students in class 10 at Adarsha Saral Madhyamik Bidhyala in Nagbahal, Lalitpur find these three subjects the most challenging.
“Perhaps because we don’t have a strong base when it comes to these subjects or because of our own weakness, we don’t do well,” says Ghimire. “Also, we aren’t used to the English language as we study all the other subjects in Nepali,” she adds pointing out the reason behind English being such a difficult subject. This 66-year- old school had a 72 per cent passed result in the SLC examinations this year with 25 per cent students passing in first division.
Their newly appointed headmaster, Ishwar P Pokhrel who is also a teacher at Kathmandu University and has been teaching English at Adarsha Saral for 10 years makes a valid point. “When it comes to English, there are students in class four who barely know their English alphabets whereas, students in private schools start learning the language from Nursery. Yet, they are forced to learn from the same syllabus and are given the same questions in the examination. And then people compare the difference in the performances of students from public and private schools,” says Pokhrel.
“Students who study in public schools in Kathmandu are mostly children of low-income families who have migrated from outside the valley. They keep shifting their area of residency so the students end up studying in one school for six months and moving to another,” Pokhrel says. This obviously has negative consequences. Also, when a student from out of the valley has all the certificates notifying that he has passed class eight but his level doesn’t even match to that of a class six student, school becomes difficult for that student as he cannot cope up with his classmates. “We will work and train that student for a year or two and then again his family shifts somewhere else,” adds Pokhrel.
Pokhrel says that you can’t only look at the school management when trying to decipher the reasons behind the division between the quality of education in private schools and public schools. Politicizations of teachers have changed their priority to attending to their affiliated political parties rather than coming to class and giving their best as a teacher, complains Pokhrel. “In today’s situation, not only the headmasters of the respective schools but even the Ministry of Education’s authority are lost when it comes to taking actions against teachers who have not been efficient,” Pokhrel laments.
Shishir Khanal, President of Sarvodaya Nepal, an organization of young Nepali volunteers working to improve the quality of life of everyone, especially the underprivileged, has been running the Jyotidaya Cooperative School in Chapagaoun, has been providing quality education in low cost to its students. “This year, 47.16 per cent students have passed the SLC examinations nationwide. While only 36 per cent of students from public schools have passed SLC,” Khanal quotes the statistics he has collected from the Office of the Controller of Examinations (OCE). “The difference in the results of private schools and public schools are not very significant when it comes to the rest of the five subjects but there is a vast difference when it comes to Math, Science and English,” says Khanal. He suggested that one way of improving the situation is to remove the in-built social psychology attached to these subjects. The students are told that these are tough subjects while even the teachers in public schools respond by saying that these three subjects are very difficult ones.
“It appears that the teachers themselves aren’t aware about how these subjects can be applied to our normal lives. When it comes to English, the teachers themselves aren’t comfortable or fluent in the language,” opines Khanal admitting that this is just a simple answer to a very complex situation and that a larger social movement and constructive changes are required to change the situation of education, especially in public schools which are the only option for children from low income families and rural areas. In a broader sense, Khanal also believes that the family background of the children and the importance that their families place on education comes to play along with loop holes in the national educational policy.
The students suggest that more emphasis should be given to practical studies. “Extra -curricular activities, not only book-learning, should be included in school curriculums,” says Indra Shrestha who also says that just learning theories and not being able to practically implement them have affected the ability of students to grasp concepts in subjects like Science.
Pokhrel, on the other hand believes that if one really wants, then improvements can be made. “The teachers must be loyal to their profession and always aim at giving their best while the government should seriously think about revising the syllabus and not imposing one syllabus all over the country without considering how suitable it is to the regional context,” he suggests. “Education should be useful in life,” says Pokhrel who believes that the current education system has not been able to implement need-based education which can be applied and useful for students later in their lives.