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Editorial: Government has failed Grade 12

The government should formulate—and implement—policies by discussing the matter with subject experts, curriculum developers, parents and teachers

Editorial: Government has failed Grade 12

When a student passes a certain exam (with or without flying colors), that’s something worth celebrating. That means her/his hard work paid off despite all oddities like a perennial struggle to pay soaring tuition fees, having to juggle between studies and work (in case of plus-two and higher studies) or having to wait perennially for the family to send some money and political disturbances that affect the academic calendar more often than not.

Frankly speaking, a government, especially in countries reeling under the collective impact of poor governance, corruption, the rule by law, ever-rising inflation, political instability, soaring tuition fees and the like has precious little to do with individual success. On the contrary, the government acts as an overpowering force pushing the student from the classroom into dirty, difficult and dangerous job destinations abroad with the intent of feasting on hard-earned remittance. 

When a student fails, our society looks down upon the individual holding the latter solely responsible for the failure. Overnight, the person becomes ‘unsociable’ of sorts in circles of kith and kin.
For our society, this failure is a personal problem or a family problem at most. But the setback gives the society some stuff to gossip about. Perhaps the student spent too much time on social media at the ‘expense’ of studies. It is possible that family members did not ‘keep a tab’ on the individual. Or perhaps the person is not that ‘bright’, after all. 

From individual failure, let’s jump into collective failure. 

The results of this year’s grade 12 exams were not a departure from the past. No Krambhangata took place. Out of 448,837 examinees, 51.91 percent passed whereas the rest could not make it, per the National Examination Board.

To borrow from NEB’s Sarkari Bhasa (governmentese), about a quarter—109,527—out of 448,837 examinees got ‘non-graded’ (NG) in English this year. This means they technically failed the exam with a score below 35 percent. 

For a country used to below-par performance on the part of all three organs of the state, this is nothing unusual, or is it? Unusual or not, let’s ponder over the recent below-par performance. 

Our emphasis on English is extraordinary. The whole nation seems to be learning English with a missionary zeal—at home, in schools, colleges, learning centers, in the company of friends and families and several other public fora. 

Apart from private and boarding schools mushrooming across the country, many community and government-run schools have switched to English as ‘the’ medium of instruction from the nursery level itself. So much so that many of the private schools do not even allow their students to communicate in non-English languages within their precincts. Perhaps the only language not taught in English in the classroom these days is Nepali. 

For an increasing number of Nepalis, English—broken or otherwise—is the preferred medium of communication. A good command of the international language is indeed a plus-point. 

Against this backdrop, Grade 12 results on the English front have come as a rude shock despite our Himalayan emphasis on the language, not to mention the pass rate of roughly 50 percent. Of course, a poor result won’t trigger the Education Minister’s resignation. Such things happen seven seas across, not here.  

But to take it solely as the failure of concerned students and/or their families will be far-fetched. 

It is the collective failure of our education system consisting of the government, teachers, students, parents and the society at large. This failure should be an eye-opener for all stakeholders. 

What elements are lacking in our teaching-learning activities—from the preschool to the university level—that lead to about 50 percent of the examinees failing the exams? How much time are English and other subject teachers spending in the classroom? Which teaching methods are they employing? What are the policy gaps at play and how to bridge them?

The government in general and the Education Ministry in particular should formulate—and, not to forget, implement—policies by discussing the matter with subject experts, curriculum developers, parents and teachers.