State of Confusion: Education Reform in Nepal

The month of June brought about what could be great changes to the educational system in Nepal, as the country ended the 10 year schooling system that had been in practice for the last 80 years. The government had hoped to bring about positive changes to the nation’s education system by passing an education reform bill, however it seems that before the bill has even been implemented, confusion reigns supreme. For example, there seems to be no solid timeline as to when the changes are meant to take place, thus creating tremendous uncertainty for schools, teachers, and the students.

Trainer, Basudev Dawadi, Writer

The reform is aimed at modernizing education in Nepal, but it has left students, parents, and teachers searching for answers

 

Education Act Eight Amendment Bill

The Nepalese parliament passed the Education Act Eight Amendment Bill on June 4th, 2016, which proposed the following major changes:

1) Categorization of school education into two basic levels.

The current school structure in Nepal is Primary Level (Grades 1–5), Lower-Secondary (grades 6-8), Secondary Level (grades 9-10) and Higher Secondary Level ( Grades 11 -12). The bill basically restructures this school level education into two levels: Basic Level (Grades 1 – 8) and Secondary Level (grades 9 – 12).

Nursurry Students while reading books

The education reform does not seem to be impacting young students like these, but perhaps it should. What are we really reforming?

2) Farewell to School Leaving Certificate Examinations.

Another major change that the Bill brings about is the redundancy of the School Leaving Certificate Examination (SLC). These exams are held at the end of year 10 and is the only standardized and readily available national exam that is able to assess student’s performances in all of Nepal.

3) Higher Secondary Education Board.

The Higher Secondary Education Board, which regulates higher secondary schools across the country (Grades 11- 12), will be phased out and transformed into National Education Board. The National Education Board would conduct the national level school termination examinations.

What the proposed changes mean

The proposed changes have brought about mixed reactions, along with many questions and uncertainties. The supporters of the bill state that if the changes do get implemented, Nepal’s schooling system will be similar to that of  international standards, creating uniformity with the world systems. They also claim that it will relieve students from economic burden and the emotional stress of enrolling into a different school during the ‘higher secondary level’ (grades 11-12).

Anita giving contact numbers of teachers of her new school

Anita Balami was a scholar who had to enroll in a different school upon “graduation” from high school (10th grade). This is

While this may sound good in paper, it may not work out well in reality. Students that are currently enrolled in schools that only operate till grade 10 still have to go through the process of enrolling into another school. Schools that operate from grades 1 – 12 are now able to simply allow their grade 10  students to carry on to grades 11 – 12, but what will that do to the enrollment of students who have no choice but to transfer from other schools? Will there still be entrance examination for all students entering grade 11? These are some questions that still have not been answered.

There also seems to be a mixed reaction in bidding farewell to the SLC examinations. While not having these examinations will not affect the quality of education the schools are providing, there is a concern that it may affect student’s perception and efforts. Once the bill is applied, SLC examination will become district level examination, potentially decreasing its importance and some teachers are worried it may lead to student’s putting in less effort in their studies and preparation.  Many are also concerned that by getting rid of SLC, an education cornerstone for students in Nepal, the country currently will not a standardized national level examination. Although the government is planning to have standardized national exam at the end of Grade 12, many are skeptical about this new exam having the same effect. When taking the SLC, it did not matter whether you went to a private school, public school or a community school – it was one exam that allowed all the students to compete without any discrimination.  Historically, students from private schools always performed better, as they got more support at school and they come from well-off families, so they got to dedicate more time towards studying. Public school children generally don’t have the resources to get private tutors and the girls tend to spend more time doing household chores than studying. However, RF’s  work and dedication is slowly bringing about change in this status quo as our girls have proven that with the right support and mentorship, they are also capable of getting high result marks.

Rukmini students and our Partner schools

We recently had 6 of our girls take the SLC and pass with wonderful marks and they will be the last lot to have to take this exam. While they were excited and relieved to have the exams over with, these students also faced the confusion of what will happen next.

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5 of the 6 recent graduates in a celebration we held in their honor. What does graduating even mean now that 10 becomes 12?

How will Rukmini Foundation be affected?

This change will not only affect our scholars and their schools, but will have a major impact on the foundation’s mission. Our pledge was initially to support our girls till their SLC exam, as that was the ‘Iron Gate’ one had to pass through in order to have a future in Nepal. Finishing 10th grade was the equivalent of finishing high school, as many had the choice to either continue their studies by going to Higher Secondary Level, go to vocational school, or pursue any other dreams that they have. When we realized some of our Rukmini scholars aspired to study further, but were unable to do so due to financial situation, we strived to help make their dreams possible with further scholarships.

Rabina Ready to Get Back to School

Rabina is one of the Rukmini graduates who is now continuing her education beyond 10th grade

Now with the educational reform, students will be required to continue their studies until Grade 12, which may mean more financial struggles for the low income families. Rukmini Foundation’s mission is to empower these girls and give them the opportunity to go to school, get an education, and create a better life for themselves. We had already started to think about what future opportunities we could provide for these girls, and with this new Education Act, we will have to support them for two more years until they finish Grade 12. We are up to the challenge, and we know our supporters will help us to ensure that we will not leave any of our girls behind when it comes to education.

Coming up on our  ‘‘State of Confusion: Education Reform’ series, we will delve deeper into what this reform will mean for our students and teachers. We will also include some interviews with our recent SLC graduates on their plans amidst the current confusion and also talk with our younger students on what not having the SLCs will mean for them.

Priti

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