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SEE of errors

SEE of errors

This year’s Secondary Education Examination (SEE) results, when they were first released on June 23, were bad enough. This first significant marker of academic credentials and cognitive abilities of students in Nepal once again showed a huge gulf in the quality of education being offered by private and public schools. Of the 451,532 regular examinees, the vast majority of the students who got the highest grades (A+ and A) were from private schools, while most of those who got the lowest grades (D and D+) were from public schools. This is a persistent trend and recent changes in exam patterns seem to have had little effect in the overall results.

Then, on June 24, the Office of the Controller of Examinations (OCE) that administers SEE, brought out another set of ‘correct’ results. Apparently, it had forgotten to include the weightage of practical examinations in the grades of some examinees. Also, due to a ‘technical error’ some students who were at the higher end of a particular range were mistakenly given a grade at the lower end of the range—for instance a student in the 3.65-4.0 (A+) range with a GPA of 4.0 was instead given a GPA of 3.65. Shockingly, when questioned, instead of owing up their mistake, the officials at the OCE could not stop congratulating themselves for daring to publish the ‘right results’ the very next day!

We understand that those at the office as well as students and common folks alike will take some time to get used to the SEE. It was only last year that it replaced the old mark-based School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examinations. Nonetheless, the OCE officials must surely have been aware that far too many students and their parents take the SEE exams very seriously. (One student has in fact already committed suicide due to her unexpectedly poor SEE results.) Still, the results of around 9,000 examinees (perhaps even more) were badly botched, subjecting them and their worried parents to great anxiety.

The cavalier attitude of the OCE officers leaves a lot to be desired. Those who refuse to own up their mistakes, nay, blunders, have no right to be employed in an office which by its nature calls for a high level of accountability. There are two broad lessons from the latest SEE saga. One, our public school education system is in need of a thorough overhaul. Two, unless those who were careless with SEE results this time are made liable for their action, with sackings if need be, we can expect similar botch-jobs in the future as well.