Seeing through SEE results

SEE RESULT 2075 (SCHOOL TYPE) Elaborated by Author
 GRADE GROUP  COMMUNITY  PRIVATE Grand TOTAL Percent of the Total Percentage within School Type
   Total no Percent

in grade group

 Total no Percent in Grade group    Community  Private  Community  Private
 NA        6,673            78.79            1,796            21.21  


             1.45       0.39 2.05 1.34
 GPA 0.80 TO <1.20        4,296            97.00               133  




             0.94       0.03 1.32 0.1
 GPA 1.20 TO <1.60      42,363            96.63            1,478  




             9.22       0.32 13.02 1.1
 GPA 1.60 TO <2.00      90,445            94.90            4,862  




           19.69       1.06 27.8 3.63
 GPA 2.00 TO <2.40      87,442            89.04          10,765            10.96  


           19.04       2.34 26.88 8.04
 GPA 2.40 TO <2.80      53,730            70.18          22,834            29.82  


           11.70       4.97 16.52 17.05
 GPA 2.80 TO <3.20      26,366            41.36          37,375            58.64  


             5.74       8.14 8.1 27.9
 GPA 3.20 TO <3.60      11,223            21.95          39,914            78.05  


             2.44       8.69 3.45 29.8
 GPA 3.60 TO <= 4        2,792            15.88          14,788            84.12  


             0.61       3.22 0.86 11.04
Grand Total    325,330            70.84        133,945            29.16  


           70.83     29.16                100.00                 100.00
 Total Occupancy %        70.84            29.16  



The 2075 SEE results have shown that we are on a continuous downward trend in terms of quality of education provided in public ‘community’ schools. The overall 40 % or so passed in the past has been due to the strength of results of private schools that have over 90 % passing, whereas in public schools the pass rate hovers around 30 %. The statistics point to a massive tragedy, where neither the government nor civil society seems to be able to reverse this terrible trend.

No amount of tinkering by the authorities to make a better SEE result seems to have mattered – they reduced the course content for Grade X, then they required only Grade X content to be tested in the SEE, they decided students need not pass all subjects in order to complete SEE, and they decided to ask the schools to send practical marks for several subjects. But none of this has helped stem the tide of poorly qualified students exiting school level.

Students all over the country continue to go to school with high hopes, but they have been let down by the state and society alike. Their future is shattered when we have results such as the latest one, which also simultaneously destroys the country’s future.


Depth of disparity

This article is an attempt to analyze in depth the SEE results, an attempt to go beyond the immediate recriminations in the media after which we go back to our daily lives, assuming fatalistically that nothing can be done to improve public school education.

Always, we get numbers and understand that private schools are doing better, but we fail to understand the depth of the disparity, and the serious implications flowing from this. Should we be alarmed by the status quo? What do the SEE results as publicized by the media do to the morale and psyche of students in public schools? What is going on in the homes around the country where there is now such eagerness for education, among the well-to-do and the poor alike? Parents are sending their children to schools, and indeed Nepal has achieved over 97% access with gender parity, but are the parents going to continue to trust public schools after this continuing debacle?

Is it fair that poor parents all over the country are forced by peer pressure as well as demands of the children to spend their scarce resources on private schools? Simultaneously, what about the massive volume of resources being spent on public schools, squandered in buildings, libraries and labs that rarely get used, and teachers who draw good salary but tend to shirk from the required work. What is the best use of our scarce resources, or shall we simply continue to squander?

We have heard much about the impact of social environment and nurture on child development. The lack of early childhood care in our sociologically transforming society and the absence of adequate nutrition might have something to do with the discrepant results in the public schools. However, the lack of stimulation and proper teaching once the children enter public schools in particular definitely handicaps the children more.

There have been numerous efforts to improve public schooling over the years, now that the challenge of access has been largely overcome, however quality stubbornly refuses to improve, as seen in the latest SEE results. Overall, the answer seems to lie in certain decisions to be internalized and adopted by political leadership

Analyzing the SEE results

Going back to the SEE results for 2019, the total number of students sitting for SEE examinations from private schools has continued to grow, at over 29 %, which is almost a third of the total population of students sitting for the examinations. We can see that nearly one-third of the student population is attending private institutions. This itself is indication of the failure of successive governments in terms of improving the quality of public schools – there is no doubt that parents all over the country will opt for public schools if the education were of quality.

Incongruously, but correctly, we must pronounce as alarming for the nation – the fact that there has not only been a steady increase in the number of private schools in the country, but also a commensurate increase in the proportion of private school students doing extremely well in SEE.

The best results are in the category of A+ (GPA 3.6-4) in the exams. Of the 325,330 public school students who sat for SEE, 2792 received A+, which comes to 0.86%. Of the 133,945 private school students who sat for the exams, 14,788 received A+, which comes to 11.04 %. Thus students who study in private schools are 12.8 times more likely to get an A+ in SEE than those attending public schools.

The second best category of results are A (GPA 3.2-3.6). Students who study in public schools have a 3.4 % chance of scoring A, whereas those studying in private schools have a 29.8 % percent chance of the same. Students attending private schools are 8.6 times more likely to get A grade than those studying in public schools.

Students in private schools have a 33.25% chance of scoring A or above, or one third of the students in private schools score A and above, whereas 4 % of those studying in public schools score A and above.

While there is a similar proportion of students scoring B in both type of schools, the chances of scoring a B+ is 3.5 times higher in private schools than in public schools. Looking at the lower end of the grades, there is a 69.02% chance that a student in a government school will get C+ or less, whereas for a student going to private schools the chance that they will score such a grade is only 12.87%.

Certainly, students should not be judged on the three hour exams they sit for, but this standardized summative test is what the government has chosen to be the benchmark for assessing children when they complete Grade X. We, therefore, have no choice but to regard this as the final assessment as school graduates prepare for college.

It is also feared that as the SEE exams become more skill-based, the chances are that the public school students will fare worse, because the public school system takes a very long time to respond, thus continuing a downward spiral for public schools and all who study there. It is, therefore, vitally important that policy makers understand this and force the bureaucracy that runs the public schools to start assessing students on multiplicity of skills, rather than the narrow memorization and writing of exams in which they have done quite poorly.

There have been many attempts to change the status of SEE, but all attempts have been shortcuts marked by a reluctance to put in the hard work. The students are always the ones who suffer as the school system administrators play with their lives.  When there was a suggestion that the SEE not enforce students to pass all the subjects, it was expected that each student would develop skills and understanding in at least a few subjects. However, nothing has changed. Students now learn the same or less than before because now they do not have to be accountable for passing all the subjects.

The letter grading system was introduced in order to change the teaching-learning in the classroom so that the children worked under the Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy, which differentiates between basic and higher order thinking. However, neither the teaching method nor the nature of examinations changed, and with the marks based on first order questioning of retelling and recalling which was converted to grades. The difference between those who get a D and an A is not on the quality of their thinking and their analytical skills, but on the number of questions they have managed to answer correctly.

Again, given that fact that that students did not have to pass in all the subjects meant that teachers and students both stopped working harder. If they were not going to fail, why should they work harder? We must understand how countries develop: it is by developing a work ethic among the young, at school. The SEE examinations as they have evolved, if anything, take away the necessity of due diligence from teachers, from students and from the education administrators. The end result is the tragic situation of today, where the education system itself is dragging down the prospects of the population and the national future.

For the sake of the future

It is clear that there is something systematically wrong in the way public schools are being run in our country and we all need a wake-up call if we are not going to be stuck in social morass and endless economic distress. We do not have to go with world trends, we need to have a unique system that works for Nepal. The future of our youngsters cannot be compromised for short-term goals without thinking of the long-term development of the country, and the lives of each of these children.

We need to appeal to the administrators of the school system to be committed to the children of Nepal, who represent the future of Nepal. We need to appeal to the representatives who have been elected to the local governments under the mandate of the new Constitution, to build a demand so great for quality in public schools that no political leader at the center, the provinces, or the municipalities, can hope to ignore them. We owe it to the children to start the focus on early childhood and move through the grades providing the best quality of education Nepal can afford.

(The author is Director of Rato Bangala School)



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