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Monday, June 16, 2014

Systemic failure: SLC results

It won’t be wise to read too much into this year’s SLC pass percentage in isolation. But the pass rate of 43.92 percent (173,436 of 394,133 examinees), although a slight improvement on last year’s 41.57 percent, is still hard to digest. Officials at the Office of Controller of Examinations (OCE) attribute the steadily declining pass percentage over the last few years to stricter supervision.

The recent results are in sharp contrast to bumper harvests of 2009 and 2010, when 68.47 and 64.31 percent regular examinees cleared the exams. Yes, incidents of blatant cheating like family members of the examinees passing on chits by bribing invigilators have gone down and this might have had a significant impact on the final results. But if that is the case, the situation is more worrisome. To have nearly 60 percent of students fail despite the billions pumped into school education cannot be justified. Interestingly, after the even more dismal results last year the Department of Education had promised a ‘double-digit rise’ in pass percentage and had introduced a 15-point reform plan. We are not convinced that promising a certain number of students will pass is a wise thing to do: how would you ever know for sure? In the end, the eventual results speak for themselves.

Arguably, the entire public schooling system has failed. While 93.25 percent of students from private schools cleared the exams, just 29.19 percent from public schools did. What is perhaps the most alarming (but again not surprising) is the alarming increase in failure rates in mathematics and science, the subjects that are considered vital in students’ intellectual development and future career prospects. There has been no shortage of remedial measures that have been proposed at various times. One such proposal is that questions should only be asked from Grade X books. (The high success rates in 2009 and 2010 were achieved when SLC questions covered only Grade X curriculum.) But that would be an insincere fix. We rather need to work at improving the quality of our public school teachers and creating an environment that fosters learning at school. Quick fixes like the 15-point plan, as the results prove, are unlikely to work. It says a lot about our school system that only around 10 percent of all students who enroll in primary schools go on to clear SLC exams.

A better way to improve the SLC pass percentage would be to give weight to year-round progress, calculated on the basis of regular attendance, class participation and home-works. One reason the private schools have a higher success rate is that there is a greater pressure on students to do well right through the academic calendar. There is also more teacher-student interaction at private schools. The current community school education system has a top-down model whereby the ‘knowledgeable’ teachers are expected to enlighten the ‘ignorant’ students. Our public school teachers should be trained to make the process more participative and to act more as facilitators of learning. For unless the students are motivated to learn, no one can teach them anything.

source: republica,15 june 2014