When the National Examination Board (NEB) published this year’s Secondary Education Examination (SEE) results, a debate arose raising some questions regarding the credibility of the grading. Although a total of 482,786 students had registered for this exam, the NEB received internal evaluation scores of only 472,078 students.
Mixed reactions Schools and teachers were entrusted with the entire responsibility of evaluation. Social media walls have been flooded with mixed reactions in response to the result. While a large section of people have expressed their utmost dissatisfaction over the lacklustre approach of the authorities concerned in certifying the result, a handful of euphoric parents have remained busy glorifying their children’s unanticipated performance. What is noticeable here is the fact that in the highest GPA group of 3.6-4, a total of 17 per cent students have fallen this year compared to just three per cent last year. Such an unnatural surge in students’ performance has drawn attention of all education stakeholders and experts. Despite the fact that the SEE has lost its relevance after the eighth amendment to the Education Act in 2016, which established the 12th grade as an exit point of school education, the recurring emphasis on its result only exhibits the grade-centric mentality. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, high stake examinations have been cancelled globally. In our context, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), which was hell-bent on holding SEE, had to revoke its decision day before the stipulated exam date amid a growing pressure from various quarters. The manner in which the students have been evaluated appears questionable. Was the students’ performance assessed on the basis of some objective criteria? From the critical analysis of the result, it appears that schools seem to have taken this opportunity to brand their educational quality by providing unnatural grades to students. Rather than taking this as a historic moment to prove their capacity of conducting fair assessment of students, schools have opted more populist path. The responsibility of the government authorities to effectively monitor and supervise the evaluation process is equally a matter of concern. In other words, the authorities have failed to ensure that the result has embraced scientific assessment criteria. The outstanding issue of reviewing the student evaluation system has once again come to the fore. Had the schools proved their mettle by implementing an objective assessment this year, the idea of decentralising the examination management to schools would have been a case in point. However, the suitability of internal evaluation has become debatable with its haphazard use as evidenced by the SEE result. Deliberate failure of schools to uphold the highest level of integrity in sending the internal evaluation scores have now ruled out this possibility. Under the predominance of a conventional education system that measures the performance of students by a three-hour exam, the real evaluation has always remained debatable. With the global education system adopting new methods of students’ evaluation, particularly in the post coronavirus era, the need of an improved and reliable assessment system is all-time high even in Nepal. Nevertheless, an overt emphasis on the grading debate is detrimental to the psycho social well-being of students. At a time when students are confronting many questions pertaining to the validity of their exams, it will not be wise to continue haunting them on the pretext of their SEE scores labelling them as a fake score based on sheer luck. Hence, a huge responsibility lies on the shoulders of the society, including parents, to talk to their SEE appeared children in a responsible manner. Equally concerning is the existing central control over the process of conducting the SEE. By now, the examination management of SEE should have come under the ambit of the State government. However, the scenario remains unchanged further arousing suspicion over its management even the next year.
Exam score value It is time for us to get rid of the discussion aimed at generating more heat than light about the value of an exam score. Instead of celebrating or undermining the grades achieved by students in exams like SEE, it is important to provide encouraging words to students to become better citizens in the future. In the present context where the entire world has been hit by a deadly virus, it would be unwise to get involved in extravagant discussions over the grade sheets of students. Helping these students handle their lives better-- physically, emotionally and socially-- in these testing times should be the priority of all schools, teachers, parents and other members of the community.