HIGHER SECONDARY SCHOOLS Difficult Choice

Soon after the announcement of the results of School Leaving Certificate exams, floodgates to higher secondary schools have opened. A large number of schools are rushing to appear on newspapers, television, radio and hoarding boards with their own st

July 4, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 05 No.-2 July 01-2011 (Ashar 17,2068)

As soon as the results of the SLC exams came out, floodgates appear to have opened for schools offering the higher secondary education. The +2 schools are marking this festive season with a motley of advertisements in newspapers and hoarding boards hanging here and there, almost everywhere.


When, back in 1994, Govinda Raj Joshi, then minister of education, presented the higher secondary education as an alternative to the proficiency certificate level of the Tribhuvan University, many a critic saw his decision as premature. There was a massive opposition within his party, not to talk of the upset TU authorities.


The TU took loans from the World Bank to remove the proficiency certificate level, but later the authorities showed reluctance to do so and did not cooperate with the ministry in this regard. “This move was possible at that time because there was a virtual political stability and our party led the government under Girija Prasad Koirala ,” said Joshi.


His opponents even created hurdles to run the +2 education. He had to personally motivate private schools and public schools to go for the plus 2 because it was an internationally accepted school system.


When no private and public school was ready to open +2 in Kathmandu, Joshi asked Budhanilkantha to start it. Due to his personal influence, some of public schools from outside the valley supported him.


Nobody bothers to know today how difficult it was to introduce this new system. Intellectuals like Dr. Ishwor Prasad Upadhyaya, secretary of Ministry of Education, and Dr. Tirtha Khaniya, vice chairman of Higher Secondary Education Board and many others, who were at the Ministry at that time, supported Joshi in his move.


“I am happy to see the present scenario where higher secondary education is widely accepted by all, especially as I remember those days when I was condemned by critics as acting like a bully,” said Joshi. However, I had not anticipated anything like the present level of commercialization of this education,” he said. “Had HSEB monitored and regulated the system properly, it would not have gone too commercial like in the present context.”


Although Joshi’s aim was to make the Nepalese education system competitive and up to the international level, he did not find many takers of his view back then. From his own party to the opposition, all he got was a massive criticism.


Seventeen years after, the situation has reversed, yet nobody cares to notice those persons who worked so hard to bring these major changes in the education system. And, who has the time?


Every year, as soon as the SLC results are published, parents and students rush to knock on the doors of higher secondary schools. The schools, in turn, rush to the doors of media- newspapers, radio, television and online, to lure the students and parents through attractive advertisements.


Amidst the festive mood now, one can see floods of colourful advertisements and hoarding boards, better looking than those in the years gone by thanks to the improving technology and knowhow. Obviously, the psychological pressure on the students and parents to choose the right education institution, which imparts quality for a reasonable cost, is tremendous. If one reads the advertisements online, they indicate that the infrastructure of these schools are at par with classrooms in developed countries.


Most of the newly established higher secondary schools are marketing themselves with many things western, including their names and models of buildings. But hardly any seems to really put a premium on quality of education and dedication to work for the future. These new schools are also using a marketing gimmick by hiring old teachers as principals and founders, for their names in certain fields.


As the +2 education solely supported by private investment, it is natural they have some kind of profit making motives. Everybody wants to make profits from investment. In this context, many schools operators ignore the main ethos of education to serve the people.


According to higher secondary authorities, there are 2,700 schools permitted to teach the +2 classes. Interestingly, all these schools are under the private sector. Higher secondary education is only one level where the government investment is virtually zero. Out of 17 percent total budget allocated to education, Higher Secondary Education receives just a few million rupees.


“The government needs to increase its annual contribution to the Higher Secondary Education so that even the rural population gets benefits,” said Dr. Baburam Pokharel, founding chairman and principal of VS Niketan Higher Secondary Schools and College.


Confusion

Although one of the main thrusts of education is to impart quality education, the recent trend speaks otherwise. Some urban-based schools are luring students by showing off their school dresses, buildings and other hardwares.


Students and parents tend to look for colleges that are liberal and offer extra facilities. Most of them neglect the colleges providing quality education without compromise. Along with good professors, good colleges make sure, how well the classes are conducted.


Over the years, Nepal has seen the growth of quality colleges in the country but students are mostly oblivious to that. Moreover, it is also essential to get prior and correct information about the courses that prospective students would like to take.


Following the great recession in the real estate business, many brokers are now investing in the higher secondary education. “Although many schools are selling the name of renowned old scholars to attract the students, the brokers and businessmen are playing from behind,” said a professor on condition of anonymity. “Such schools are promoting the culture of mini-skirts, motorbikes and muscle power.”


As private investment in the higher education sector is reducing the burden of government, it is creating more troubles due to the lack of a strong monitoring and regulatory authority. Although Higher Secondary Education Board is responsible to take all the necessary regulatory works, what it lacks is the institutional capability and manpower.


In an unhealthy competition, many reputed schools run by professionals are also facing the problems.  Chelsea International Academy is one of them. For the past four years, Sudhir Kumar Jha, principal of Chelsea International Academy, had not faced any difficulty to get the students for its A Level Cambridge. Established as a good A Level school for science and non-science streams, Chelsea International Academy used to get enough students till the last year.


“Due to the haphazard decision of the government to allow any number of schools in any time and any place, the situation has gone from bad to worse. If the government is sincerely in favour of quality education, it must not permit new schools without analyzing the manpower available in the market,” said Jha.


After taking the portfolio of Minister of Education, Ganga Lal Tuladhar, who issued permission to 36 schools to run A Level Cambridge in Kathmandu, is concerned about the scenario too.



“Education sector must provide healthy academic environment rather than healthy physical environment. I have already directed the HSEB to monitor the situation to stop unhealthy practices,” minister Tuladhar told New Spotlight. “Following the phase-out of the proficiency certificate level from Tribhuvan University, we need to bring changes in the sector of higher secondary education to make it accessible to the people from all walks of life.”


Out of the total of 397,759 students who appeared in the SLC examination conducted in the academic year 2067 B.S. (March 2011), only 220,766 students got through this most vital exam of their school life.


Over 2600 schools are now trying to lure these 220,776 students. After results of partial examinations in August, another 10,000 to 15,000 students will be added in the total pass percentage.


Education expert Dr. Mana Prasad Wagle said that lack of appropriate political leadership and willpower of the employees are to blame for the failure of different education programmes launched by the government.


“The government must take the steps to regularize the education institutions. If things go like they do now, there will be more problems in the future.”


As there is no choice other than the Higher Secondary Education now, what students and parents need to do is to find out the institutions with proven capability for quality education and institutions with academic atmosphere. “Education sector must provide healthy academic environment rather than healthy physical environment. I have already directed the HSEB to monitor the situation to stop unhealthy practices,” minister Tuladhar told New Spotlight. “Following the phase-out of the proficiency certificate level from Tribhuvan University, we need to bring changes in the sector of higher secondary education to make it accessible to the people from all walks of life.”


Out of the total of 397,759 students who appeared in the SLC examination conducted in the academic year 2067 B.S. (March 2011), only 220,766 students got through this most vital exam of their school life.


Over 2600 schools are now trying to lure these 220,776 students. After results of partial examinations in August, another 10,000 to 15,000 students will be added in the total pass percentage.


Education expert Dr. Mana Prasad Wagle said that lack of appropriate political leadership and willpower of the employees are to blame for the failure of different education programmes launched by the government.


“The government must take the steps to regularize the education institutions. If things go like they do now, there will be more problems in the future.”


As there is no choice other than the Higher Secondary Education now, what students and parents need to do is to find out the institutions with proven capability for quality education and institutions with academic atmosphere.

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