Schools like prisons : The torture that children suffer in the name of the SLC examination is awful

It is not only the hidden financial interest of schools but also the curriculum and assessment system that is responsible for the torture students suffer in the name of SLC.

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If you type the word “prison” in the search box on Wikipedia, you will find that its meaning is given as a place in which people are physically confined and usually deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime. Incidental criminals are harmless to other people. Some mentally sick people are a danger to other people. If we do not restrain them, they might harm other people. But here I am talking about educational jails, and this is the season for many more brutal prisons to open for some months.

Private education has been praised for providing quality education in the country that has contributed to raising the pass rate in SLC, the so-called Iron Gate. The fever of the SLC examinations has begun with the start of the pre-send-up tests, passing which makes you eligible to appear in the send-up examinations, which, in turn, are necessary for appearing in the SLC. As in past years, SLC has become a prestige issue for parents, teachers and schools. Distinctions have become the standard for children, especially for those studying in private schools. Fixed time (generally three hours) paper and pencil tests will decide the fate of children. Inability to perform well in the examinations will lead to failure and force them to face the bitter taste of being incapable, though there are doubts about the ability of the standardised tests to measure one’s capability.

Failure to do well in the three-hour examinations, which undermines the value of learning that children achieve in a decade of schooling, will create much disappointment, and cause dreams and ambitions to vanish into an abyss of despair. It is going to disappoint

the parents who invest a large amount of money on their children’s education. It will also disappoint the teachers who have claimed to put in their best effort to educate their students, and the schools that seem to work day and night for them.

Parents worry about the prestige they lose in the community of relatives and friends, teachers worry about their status as a qualified teacher, and schools about the prestige they might lose in the community of schools. Parents, teachers and schools use all sorts of tools to ensure that children perform their best.

Many schools will categorise their children through the pre-send-up examinations into distinction, first, second and third divisions and fail. Then the schools will create compartments that provide special attention to the children. The freedom of students will be seized and strictly monitored. Many schools will call for compulsory hostel for all the students. Students will wake up early in the morning, have breakfast and start practicing — practice, lunch, practice, tiffin, practice, dinner and some more practice. Practice, practice and practice will be the only formula applied. Students will be kept away from their family, entertainment and everything except books and exams until the SLC arrives. Students will be confined to a jail-like hostel or be put under house arrest.

After all, one needs a certificate to go for further studies or get a good job in the market. No certificate, no future! Extra tuition will start early in the morning; children will get limited time for bathroom, lunch and dinner. Subject teachers will be arranged for extra classes and “special” practice sessions will focus on predicted questions, and rumours will spread about prior information of a few or a whole set of questions. As for “special” classes, people fail to ask the most obvious question: What is so special about such classes that confine students within the walls of the classroom and force them to stare at questions and answers for hours, until they have a picture memory of the page but have no opinion of their own?

During an informal conversation at a workshop, a teacher said that the exam centre and the seating arrangements were set at the request of the schools, which have greater powers than the educational authorities. Schools make the seating arrangement so that high and low performers sit next to each other. He also talked about a special arrangement for exam paper correction centres for some schools.

Regarding the preparation classes in the hostel, one of my friends said that during the night, students feel sleepy, so they arrange tests from 9 pm to 12 midnight. Parents invest a huge amount of money to keep their children in the hostel where the fees are exorbitant without any justifiable basis. The torture that children face in the name of SLC is quite awful. The prisons will remain open till the date of the SLC exams. Schools, teachers and publishers of practice books and guess papers will benefit a lot, but will the students learn anything new?

It is not only the hidden financial interest of schools but also the curriculum and assessment system that is responsible for the torture students suffer in the name of SLC. The curriculum and assessment system tries to measure the knowledge of students in a rigid frame confined to paper-pencil tests that happen only after 10 years of learning. This type of assessment is quite unjustifiable to learners with diverse learning styles. A curriculum that emphasises learning for life skills, and assessments that happen while learning as a continuous process would better help learners and make learning fun. In addition, the letter grade that the curriculum board plans to implement probably would reduce the level of torture children have been facing.

source: Thapa, Amrit B (2013),"Schools like prisons", The Kathmandu post,The Kathmandu post,6 Jan 2013
photo courtesy: The Kathmandu post

Thapa has been a teacher for 15 years and is currently a visiting faculty at Kathmandu University

2013-01-06 | EducateNepal


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