Chelsea International Academy has established itself as a successful educational institution to produce quality students at the General Certificate of Education (GCE), A level of Cambridge International Examination. Sudhir Kumar Jha, Principal and founder director of Chelsea International Academy and President of Cambridge Educators’ Association of Nepal, spoke to New Spotlight on various issues regarding the A-level education in Nepal. Excerpts:
Many parents still do not know much about Cambridge A-level. What is A-Level all about?
General Certificate of Education (GCE) is a program of Cambridge International Examination (CIE). CIE is a body of University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate (UCLES), which has been named Cambridge Assessment for clarity. It has been providing GE Advanced Level qualifications in more than 150 countries of the globe for about 50 years in some 70 different subjects. It is one of the globally recognized certificate level educations.
How many Colleges are there for A-level?
There are 28 schools which teach Cambridge A Level. Out of them, 24 are in Kathmandu, 3 in Pokhara and 1 in Biratnagar.
Why does your school prefer ‘A Level’ for higher education to the ‘+2’?
We found A level comparatively more competent than +2 because it gives more options to the students and they can choose from a wider range of subjects and can select them in different combinations. Since the students get to choose what subjects they are going to study, it becomes easier for them to specialize on the subjects of their interest from the beginning. One can opt for Higher Education anywhere in the world after completing the A-Level courses.
How will you check the quality?
British Council is supervising the work in maintaining quality and Ministry of Education, the High Level Evaluation Monitoring Committee are also doing the work. They make a visit to the institutions and also supervise the colleges. According to the CIE and MOE, every institution needs to maintain the international level of infrastructure (Library, Science Lab, Computer Lab, Play Grounds and many more).
Do you think the quality of all these institutions is the same?
I have to agree that the quality of all the colleges is not the same. In terms of fees also, there is a wide gap. Some schools charge 20,000 per month and there are also institutions which charge 2000 to 3000 rupees. Where there are no students, they charge less fees. You can judge the quality in terms of fees also. The teachers are expensive and class room sizes need to be smaller as you can place 20-25 students per class. According to the criteria of Ministry of Education, every teacher teaching A-Level subjects needs to be at least Post Graduate. Every institution is required to have Teacher’s Support Site and Broad Band Connection. The British Council, CIE and Ministry of Education have decided to make visits to all the A-Level schools four times a year. This decision of regular supervision has helped to raise the standard of A-Level institutions of Nepal. However, some schools are hiring the students who just completed the A-Level. I can not say that all the colleges provide the same quality of education.
Can it be affordable to all?
A-Level Education is considered as one of the expensive studies in Nepal. However, if the quality of studies is to be provided equivalent to the Cambridge University education, the fee is still very cheap.
Is there a similar fee structure in the schools or a wide variety?
The fee structure of A-Level in Nepal is different in different institutions. A-Level institutions are charging the fee ranging from Rs.5000 to 20,000. Similarly, these institutions are charging Rs. 20,000 to Rs.60, 000 as admission amount.
Don’t you have scholarships?
Many institutions have provided the facility of merit and needs based scholarship to the needy ones. Because of this facility, even financially weak guardians have been able to provide this quality of education to their children.
On what basis do students choose these schools?
The choices of students also depend upon the capability of students and quality of institutions. If a student is financially well to do, he or she will choose an expensive school. If someone is less affluent, his choice definitely will be for a cheap school.
What about courses?
The courses are quite elaborate and they enhance the creativity of the students. The courses help students critically analyze what they studied so it definitely increases their cognitive and learning abilities to be able to proceed easily to any higher level courses.
What is the position of Chelsea?
We have 200 students now and hundred percent students secured first division in SLC. A student who scored highest mark in CSB has already been enrolled in our college. We are admitting 200 students annually at A-level. We have altogether 1000 students under Chelsea.
Why are colleges moving to A-Level?
Because of the quality of curriculum, students prefer this education. Cambridge offers options to choose from about 70 different subjects. Cambridge University refines the curriculum every two years. Though the courses are designed for UK, the Cambridge gives us flexibility in teaching. They ask us to teach the course looking at the Nepalese context. This is an international course but it can be taught in a national context. One of the important aspects of A-Level is that it has a course which allows you to go to depth.
How is the examination system?
There is flexibility in examination also. Students are allowed to give reexamination if they are dissatisfied with the course. So far as appearing the examination is concerned, it is student friendly and there is also flexibility as students can appear for all the subjects in the same year or go for partial appearance. There is high possibility to qualify for international colleges for further studies. The courses stress creativity and analytical skills. The marking system is based on percentile basis. Many students get scholarships. One of the important aspects of this course is that it has international recognition. Until seven or eight years ago, most of the students of A-Level were offspring of retired British Gurkha as most of them returned from Hong Kong and Singapore. Now the situation is that all kinds of students are enrolling at A-Level. We have good students and we have good results.
How much is the cost for students to study in these schools?
Out of 400000-500000 SLC pass outs, about 1500 students are admitted at A-Level Cambridge. A science student needs to invest about Rs. 350,000 to complete A-Level and non-science student 250,000. The examination fees are also expensive as one has to pay Rs.50, 000 to 60,000 thousand for science student. There is still a lot needed to do. Although you can see various advertisements in the news papers, only a few advertisement tell you what is A level all about.
When you started Chelsea, your mission was to pursue quality education. Have you achieved your goal?
We have done a lot of things but we are yet to make hundred percent progress. This year there were 400 students applying for 200 seats. We have now more than 1000 students and the number is increasing day by day.