Is the SLC exam’s successor, the SEE, though, any better or easier for the students to pass? This question is still being debated a great deal. However, it appears quite clear that the pressure which students – the 10th graders – felt under the SLC system has dropped considerably. The reason? In short, the students cannot flunk the SEE, only score low grades!
The students cannot flunk the SEE, only score low grades.
But what is the difference between the SLC and SEE, more precisely?
The SLC system was based on raw marks as opposed to grades, and students needed a minimum of 32 marks out of 100 in eight subjects to pass the exam and secure their diploma. Failure to achieve 32 marks, even in just one subject, meant that the student would flunk the entire SLC! This was the cut-throat nature of the SLC which made it such a dreaded exam.
Students who flunked in up to two subjects still had a chance, though, to secure their SLC diploma. They were then required to appear for re-examination in those subjects a few months later, though in some cases only next year. But a student flunking in more than two subjects, or getting below 32 marks on average, had to redo the entire SLC the year after!
Below is an example of an SLC diploma. What mattered were the added up total marks.The SEE system, in contrast, is based on grades, not simply on marks. A+ and A refer to an outstanding or excellent result while B+ and B are given for very good to good results, C+ and C for achievements just above or on average, and D+ and D for results below and far below average. Each grade translates into certain grade points. So, that’s one part of the change. The other part of the change is that now students can score below average in one or even more subjects and still get their diploma! To qualify for grade 11 requires a “C” – or 40 out of 100 marks – in average score as well as “D+“ in social studies, and even students who get only “D”s will get a diploma and have a chance to at least move on to some other education.
The recently published SEE results of 2018 reveal that the far majority were in fact able to qualify for grade 11! 78 pct. of the students scored at least “C” – or minimum 40 out of 100 marks per subject – on average, far more than the 47 pct. who passed the SLC in 2015. How many secured a D+ in social studies is not clear but it seems safe at this point to say that:
More students were able to qualify and possibly continue to grade 11 than under the SLC system.But is scoring a “C” enough to study anything a student might like in grades 11 and 12, now known as “higher secondary school”? Well, not exactly, as it still depends on the grades. A “C” amounts to 1.6 grade points or GPAs but that’s not enough for all lines or streams of study in grades 11 and 12. There are five streams and some are harder to get into than others.
Just a “C” and below-average grades in certain other subjects is enough for some of the streams. Easiest is Education – it only requires a “C” on average and “D+” in Social Studies – followed by Humanities and Law that require an additional “D+” in English and Nepali. The hardest stream to get into is Medicine, Engineering and Pure Science, as listed below.
If 78 pct. of the students secured a C this year, what then about the remaining 22 pct. who scored below average: are also they better off under the SEE system than the SLC system?
The below-average students cannot continue to grade 11 and 12. The SEE is no different than the SLC in that respect. But they can take up technical or vocational education more easily than under the SLC system. Students who scored below a “C” still get their 10th grade school diploma, and with that in hand they can join 12 or 18 months government courses to become:
– sub-overseers in civil electrical and mechanical engineering,
– survey or lab assistants,
– chefs, plumbers, welders, masons, painters, and other craftsmen, just as there are courses in entrepreneurship development, and various other trades, depending on one’s specific grades.
It’s also possible for students who got below “C” in up to two subjects to appear in so-called chance exams, held in July and August, to improve their grades and in that way still qualify for grade 11 or technical studies. Last year, 61 pct. of those students who tried did increase their grades!
But is the SEE the end of the “iron gate”? Well, the risk of flunking the secondary school exam is gone but the risk of scoring low grades is still high as ever, not least among students at Nepal’s low-standard public schools so common in the rural areas. Due to a range of factors, 10th-graders in public schools have always faced the toughest struggle to move on to grade 11.
Private schools, on the other hand, also known as boarding schools or English schools, have generally been able to better equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to pass the exam. They have out-performed public schools for years. The figure below shows the gap between public and private schools at the SLC exam in 2015: a 34 pct. versus 89 pct. pass rate!The SEE system has given also students from public schools a better chance of continuing passed grade 10. The new grading system under which students cannot flunk would benefit them too. However, it might also be true that even though a mere average grade is enough to enter grade 11, good colleges may prefer to accept only students with higher grades.
At the end of the day, the fundamental issue – which is that many students not least at public schools score average or below-average grades – remains. Not even the most advanced grading system can tackle the many factors that continue to weaken education in Nepal. Teachers’ lack of qualifications and widespread absenteeism remain huge obstacles, and so do, say, lack of funding and inadequate distribution of school text-books, as listed below.The SEE has allowed more students to pass the exam. But just to reach grade 10 is still a huge challenge for many students. Indeed, while 78 pct. scored a “C” at the SEE, many more children don’t even make it passed primary school! The SEE system has lowered the iron gate for the 10th-graders. But to lower it for students in a broader sense, there is still a long way to go.
Here are some comments illustrating the still ongoing debate on the SEE system in Nepal:
“The main reason for introducing the letter grading system was to minimise the fail percentage.” Hari Lamsal, spokesperson, Ministry of Education. Source.
“The results of the SLC exams have been dismal for years. As there will be no failure in the exams with the introduction of the SEE system, the concerned authorities may say in a rather boastful manner that the quality of education has improved.” Uttam Maharjan. Source.
“If anything, the system will make the students lazybones. They may feel that they will not have to work very hard to pass the exams. Whether they study hard or not, they will get through.” Uttam Maharjan. Source.
“It is up to the college to decide whether a student can study a particular subject, not the government,” Kedar Bhakta Mathema, education expert. Source.
“Our [SEE] grading system follows the national context as we cannot keep such a large number of students out of higher education just for the sake of maintaining rigidity in our examination evaluation [i.e. keeping the SLC system].” Giriraj Mani Pokharel, Minister of Education. Source.