– Eak Prasad Duwadi
Like other folks in Nepal, I used to cherish School Leaving Certificate exams so much. For the same, I gave so much importance forfeiting many things— asceticism to sleep, time, money and family duties. Consequently, I even did not take part in brother’s marriage ceremony though it was scheduled two and half months before the exams.
People time and again ask me the name of the high school I was graduated from, and the percentage I secured in the SLC. Though I have received more than half-dozen degrees after that, SLC has superseded all of them. However, the fact is many who did poorly in the same SLC have already excelled me widely.
Unsurprisingly, there are many similarities between 2012 and 1992. To begin with, exam fever is still high. As a result, the students have excessive paranoia. Next common thing is the rampant cheating milieus both in Terai and far-flung areas. Then comes similar transitional phases– post- 1990s mass movements and its hangovers were there like present impasse after 2006 peoples’ movement. Like then incumbent leaders, today’s top brass politicians are so corrupt. Above all, SLC is still the Iron Gate– there are many cases of expulsions and death of students. Again the three-hour long exams are going to determine his future. Like me, he is also mugging up the definitions, formulas, solutions and analysis that are copied and pasted in the textbooks. Nor are his other skills (team work, social service, how to repair mobiles, how to plant cereals, how to plough the field, how to organize rituals, how to earn in business, how to rare cattle, how to guide tourists, etc.) going to be assets of the exams. His future is equally unsecure like mine. Interestingly, the craze of Science-Stream has not faded out. The validity, authenticity and washback of SLC are also similar. There are cases of students who in spite of the excellent results in the SLC have either failed in the Intermediate or achieved very low. There are still hues and cries about the existence of SLC. Moreover, hot debates are still going on because of the politics of two types education (private and public schools) in Nepal.
Unerringly 20 years have passed since I appeared in SLC exams in 1992. Coincidentally, my younger nephew is taking his SLC now. I happened to judge SLC against then and now. In 1992 question models of English, Maths and Science were changed, but now they are like in previous years. I took seven subjects but now my nephew has to take one more paper. There were less than 100 thousand examinees, where as there are more than a half million now. My SLC exams were being held in January and the results would come out in the last week of June, but now his have started in March and it perhaps is going to be out around the same time. Having passed SLC, I opted Proficiency Certificate Level, but he is going to join either plus two or A-Levels. There were less pass percentage rate (for example just 24 % in the year of my graduation) and distinction was rare, but now it is more than 60 %. There were fewer guides and guess-papers, now the number has grown in many folds. Unlike current school-centered coaching, I used go to teachers’ home for extra tuitions. I did not see frequent bandhas except few curfews then while my nephew observed dozens of strikes even in his tenth grade.
There some changes in twenty years, but many similar problems also exist herein. I do not say that SLC should be abolished from Nepal like some of the intellectuals who seemed to be playing gimmicks in the direction of foreign conglomerates because they want to dismantle Nepal’s school education system as the higher levels. What I want to suggest is making it more inclusive so as to make it more students-centered. Moreover, both the guardians and the teachers ought to not give so much pressure to the juvenile minds since SLC is not the end but it is the beginning of their children’s education. There are hundreds of other exams (either academic and or practical) to face for them. I have told the same to my nephew unlike what my seniors used to advice, “Do or Die”.