Ways To Facilitate SLC Candidates : Chirajibi Niroula
Two powerful earthquakes along with innumerable aftershocks affected more than two hundred thousand families in Nepal in April last year. Many school children lost their lives and quite a few are still in a trauma. Almost all schools in the earthquake-affected districts, namely Gorkha, Sindhupalchowk, Dolakha, Nuwakot, Kavrepalanchowk, Sindhuli, Dhading, Ramechhap as well as the Kathmandu Valley were devastated.
According to the report of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Asia-Pacific, more than 16,000 public and private schools were severely damaged, and about half of the schools in the country were seen to be in a hazardous condition.
Those school children who fortuitously survived the tremors have been living in tents in the aftermath of the earthquakes. Out of them, many are appearing for the SLC exams this year. Their schools were closed down for a month and a half due to the devastating earthquakes and their aftershocks. And in the southern plains, the agitation launched by the Terai-centric parties has shut down schools there for more than three months now. On top of that, the anguish of the children has been made worse by the blockade imposed by India.
According to a report by UNICEF, more than three million children live in a pathetic situation. Now they are at high risk of death or diseases during this winter due to the severe shortage of fuel, food, medicine and vaccines. As a result, candidates who are greatly under stress and in a trauma will be appearing for the SLC exams this year.
It is of grave concern for all of us that the government still does not have a clear picture of how actually the children are suffering. As a matter of fact, several school children are freezing due to the extreme weather condition to our utter dismay.
The Office of the Controller of Examinations under the Ministry of Education (OCEME) has scheduled the SLC examination for March 31, 2016. Against this background, on the one hand, we foresee only a limited numbers of schools where the SLC centres can be arranged. On the other hand, the number of SLC candidates is increasing.
The SLC-2016 candidates in the earthquake-affected areas and in the Terai are facing an ordeal, which means their academic accomplishment will be below standard. However, according to the new grading system to be duly implemented from this year, nobody will fail in the exams.
Now, this situation brings us to the logical question: how can the ministry of education facilitate the SLC-2016 candidates in maintaining the quality of education and also meet their life’s situation?
This writer thinks all possible exam centres throughout the country must be inspected immediately. For this, the District Education Office (DEO) of each district should form a team of experts and visit the respective schools where the SLC centres are to be set up. Indeed, the exam centres must be inspected and confirmed for the safety of the examinees, otherwise their psychology might be adversely affected.
If the SLC candidates are placed in rooms where there are visible signs of the quake devastation, then their psychology might be affected that, without doubt, will result in their poor performance in the exams.
It is assumed that the SLC candidates in almost all the quake-affected districts are still suffering from some form of stress and strain. They have also been facing several kinds of deficiencies. For boosting their morale, the DEOs should host a short programme in the concerned schools at the local level, which will consequently reduce the exam phobia of the SLC candidates.
A team of educationists who are adept in giving counsel to the students should be sent to the respective schools one month before the SLC examination. The DEOs can mobilise the school inspectors and resource persons to visit the concerned schools. If such initiatives are taken, the plight of the students can be reduced to some extent.
e are aware that many candidates in the previous SLC exams were expressing concern that both compulsory and optional mathematics questions were quite tough, and some questions were even from outside the prescribed textbooks. Such cases were seen in other subjects as well, which should not repeat this time. The Office of the Controller of Examinations should prepare the SLC questions from course materials only within that level.
It is hoped that the Ministry of Education will show some leniency towards the SLC candidates who are immensely traumatised by the earthquake and victimised by the political agitation in the Terai region this year. The Education Regulation clearly states that schools are to be operated for 220 days in an academic year. But this norm is simply impossible to meet. The OCE can’t escape from its responsibility just by endorsing its annual calendar. Therefore, it should postpone the SLC exam to a later date so as to allow the students to prepare well for the exam.
Besides, it has to help the SLC candidates in whatever way possible so that they can perform well and meet our expectations. It seems reasonable to prepare a separate question set/s for those students who are residing in earthquake-affected districts and in the Terai region as there was a trend of preparing separate sets of questions for the different regions in the past SLC examinations. If this is not considered in time, then the upcoming SLC results will create an abysmal gap between private and government-run schools.
Education is life
The OCE should also hold an orientation for answer booklet examiners as a new grading system has been introduced from this year. It is, therefore, necessary to train the examiners and they are to be given a limited number of answer booklets only. A precise and clear marking scheme along with the indication of relevant answer keys even in subjective questions must be distributed to the examiners beforehand.
It is essential to keep in mind that the life of a student is determined by an effective and comprehensible evaluation. A quote from one of the pioneer educationists and American philosopher, John Dewey, is pertinent here: “Education is not for life: Education is life itself.”
Niroula is a programme coordinator at GEMS Higher Secondary School.)