Scrapping The ‘Fail’ Grade: A Faulty Decision : Uttam Maharjan

The government has recently introduced a system in the educational field, which ensures that no student appearing in the SLC exams will be provided with a ‘fail’ certificate. The system of awarding marks in each subject to the SLC students has been in practice for the last 80 years since the first SLC exams took place in 1934 AD. A grading system will supplant the existing system.

As per the new system, the SLC students will be awarded A+ (90 and above per cent), A (80-89 per cent), B (60-79 per cent), C (40-59 per cent), D (25-39 per cent) and E (below 25 per cent) grades. As per the existing system, a student must secure at least 33 per cent in each subject to pass the exams. The new system will be applied in the technical and vocational stream from this year and in the general stream from next year.

Relief to students

The government is of the opinion that the new system will do away with the unhealthy competition among the schools and students. It will give more relief to the students as they will not have to undergo mental torture to cross the Iron Gate. Every year, some students commit suicide for failing in the exams. This system will, therefore, do away with such a nasty situation.

Yes, this grading system will certainly give some relief to the SLC students, especially those who are poor in studies. Now, such students may think that even if they get less than 25 per cent marks in aggregate, they will not fail the exams. Some students may even think that they need not burn the midnight oil as they will not fail in the exams.

Under the existing system, schools tend to claim that their students have stood first, second or third in the exams on the basis of their marks. Such claims may be belied by some other school the same day or the next day. Such a tendency on their part is the result of the scrapping of the top-ten (board) system some years ago. Still, the top-ten system keeps haunting them. The government had to scrap the top-ten system because some powerful schools used to manoeuvre their students into the top-ten slot by illegal means.

Although all the SLC students will pass when the grading system is fully implemented from next year, the rating will disclose where they stand in the exams. All the SLC students will be categorised into six groups of rating, ranging from A+ to E. As stated above, the rating is based on the percentage of marks the students have secured. But the thing is that the exact marks are not disclosed.

After passing the SLC exams, the students get enrolled in college. Today, reputed colleges enroll only those students who have secured high marks in the SLC exams. Even those students securing second division marks are now finding it difficult to get enrolled in reputed colleges. It is, therefore, obvious that such reputed colleges may not enroll students with C, D or E ratings.

It is crystal clear that C, D and E graders are those who secure less than the first division marks. Moreover, E graders and half the D graders are those students who have failed. No reputed college may be willing to admit such students.

With the new system in place, the existing colleges may not be adequate. Colleges may fall over themselves to attract the students rated A+, A or B. C-rated students may be compelled to find admission to other colleges. But D- and E-rated students may not get admission at all. Only those colleges that cannot fulfill the required quota of students may welcome such students.

In the present-day context, the percentage of students passing the SLC exams is less than 50. This implies that the existing colleges will have to bear more than twice the burden of students. This will definitely call for the establishment of more colleges. Numerically speaking, additional colleges, at least as many as the existing ones, will be required to handle the burden of students. 

The concerned authorities claim that the grading system will improve the educational system. This is not true. If anything, the system will make the students lazybones. They may feel that they will not have to work very hard to pass the exams. Whether they study hard or not, they will get through. At a time when the students must compete at the international level, the new system may push the quality of education to the precipice of decadence.

The results of the SLC exams have been dismal for years. Every year, the concerned authorities have to collect brickbats for poor performance in the exams. The new system might have been introduced to avoid such criticisms. As there will be no failure in the SLC exams with the introduction of the new system, the concerned authorities may say rather in a boastful manner that the quality of education has improved.

As claimed by the authorities, the system will steer clear of the mental strain and torture of the students. But if they cannot get enrolled in colleges due to their poor grade, will not they be subject to mental tension and torture? Even if they do get admission to some college, what will happen to them if they flunk the plus-two exams? Will they be able to adopt a take-it-easy-policy as they may in the SLC exams? The government has not unveiled such a system in the plus-two and higher-studies exams yet.

Reconsider decision

The grading system with an all-pass provision may bring about distortions in the educational system. Instead of introducing such a system, it would be far better if the SLC exams were scrapped altogether and the school-leaving level was extended till the plus-two level. After all, there is still time to reconsider the decision on the new system.    

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