Reforming SLC Grading System : Chiranjibi Niroula
The Office of the Controller of Examination (OCE) first introduced the grading system in the SLC results in 2015, particularly in the field of technical and vocational subjects. OCE will continue with the grading system in the SLC results in both the technical and general fields of education from 2016.
According to this system, SLC students are awarded A+ (90% and above), A (80% and below 90%), B (60% and below 80%), C (40% and below 60%), D (20% and below 40%) and E (below 20%) in the SLC results from now onwards. It also keeps a provision of N, which stands for zero score, if and when an examinee submits a blank answer booklet or is expelled in the exams or in case of the candidate's absenteeism.
The newly introduced grading system is based on the Transformation of Raw Scores obtained by the examinees into letter heads. This will, however, not be a panacea for reforming education in Nepal as it only focuses on the results. Several discrepancies will appear if this conception is applied without any reforms.
Yale University in the United States first introduced the grading system in 1785 whereas University of Cambridge launched it in 1792. Several academic institutions in the world have been evaluating students using the grading system, but there is no uniformity. We get varying parameters in different countries. The Nepalese grading system also seems to be anomalous in comparison to international practices.
The system of pass or fail existed for more than eight decades in Nepal. It had numerous demerits. It would be futile to talk about its drawbacks in detail here. However, let us scrutinise some foremost ones. We had been witnessing cases of suicide among the SLC candidates who had failed in their results in the past. Students who did not do well in school were always in great anxiety. Various unethical means were conspicuously seen from the SLC examination time to the publication of the results. Many students who were weak in studies used to drop out of school and put a stop to their scholastic endeavours forever. In fact, it used to instigate several youngsters into joining bad company. It was a shocking situation for all of us. So it sounds well to annihilate it in favour of the grading system.
But this writer insists this grading system needs still more reforms for various reasons. Let’s have a look at the top-down delineation. Can we say a student scoring an A+ is more talented than a student scoring an A? For example, a student who scores 720 marks (90%) out of 800 full marks in the SLC gets a grade of A+ whereas another student who scores 719 marks (89.875%) gets an A. In here, there is not much difference between an A+ holder and a grade A holder? Can such a distinction of one mark put someone at the summit and another below?
How is a student scoring 80% marks as talented as a student scoring 89.875%? In both the cases, the examinees have got the same grade A. This appalling gap of 9.875% must be minimised for awarding grades.
Furthermore, we must think of the future of those students who obtain grade D and less. Where will they find enrollment for higher study? Obviously the most coveted schools attract those students whose grades are superior. It will also be tough to get admission in the Science stream for those students who obtain grade C. This situation definitely creates a barricade for those students whose grades are inferior. Consequently such students will be compelled to mingle in a less competitive educational environment. An inferior input will never result in superior outcome. This only diminishes the standard of education.
All we can predict for now is that the OCE will impede the immediate suicidal attempts by the SLC candidates. However, results without the declaration of pass or fail could act as slow venom for the concerned authorities. When a grading system lacks this norm, then it becomes a burning hearth for an escaping fish from a frying pan in the long run. In this regard, the OCE can't escape from its responsibility and must try to resolve the issue. So, the present grading system which is going to be duly applied in the SLC results onwards needs amendment. Here are some remedies:
There is nothing wrong in doing the same thing differently. The range of 10% in the upper tiers could be reduced to 5%. A series of eight tiers with plus and minus for the letter heads ( A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+ and C) sounds good with intervals of 5% gaps. These tiers will definitely urge the students to compete among themselves and raise their grades. If this is considered, tier D will cover a score range from 40% to below 50%. Students who are awarded a D should be equally eligible for enrollment in higher studies.
There have been several cases in the past when students securing a third division in the SLC had shown remarkable performance in higher studies. The grade F will be there for those scoring below 40%, but a policy could be taken where every candidate is expected to cross it.
There are quite a few dimensions of students that schools can help develop. If an internal evaluation is empowered, it can enhance the discipline and ethics among students. It energises the students to learn persistently. The existing internal evaluation is limited to only four subjects. There is an internal evaluation of 25% in English, Science, Environment, Population & Health or Optional II. This could be applied to all subjects, and its weight could also be increased.
The system awards 50% marks in Computer Science through internal evaluation, then why not in others? This policy motivates students to work harder in school as it is quite practical and transparent. It opens the door for students to enter higher studies. In spite of its charming features, internal evaluation can still be manipulated. A strong mechanism must, therefore be formed for its legitimacy and credibility. Eventually it is expected that the concerned authorities will give thought to amending the present grading system.