Face To Face with..

Umesh Shrestha, President, HISSAN

+ 2 students capable of competing globally

Umesh Shrestha is the President of Higher Secondary School Association Nepal (HISSAN), the apex body of higher secondary schools of the country.

Umesh Shrestha is the President of Higher Secondary School Association Nepal (HISSAN), the apex body of higher secondary schools of the country. The founder principal of Little Angels School, Shrestha has been associated with the education sector for the last 32 years. Sanjeev Giri of The Post caught up with Shrestha to talk about the status of Plus Two education in the country and its future prospects. Excerpts:  

SLC results have been disappointing this year. How do you review the overall secondary education system in the country?
Yes, the SLC results have been disappointing this year. I think a weak teaching-learning methodology is the main factor behind such a dismal result. The SLC results show that students haven’t gained enough knowledge in their classrooms. We need to be cautious about this. If we analyse the result, most students have failed in subjects like Mathematics, Science and English. Hence, the government should look seriously into it and find ways to facilitate students of these subjects in a more precise manner. Many schools, especially in rural areas, don’t have adequate and qualified teachers. On the other hand, the ownership of guardians doesn’t seem high either. Guardians should be conscious and look after the activities and studies of their wards seriously.

How do you review the contribution of Plus Two schools to the education sector of the country?
I feel that our Plus Two education has made Nepali students capable of competing in the global arena. Of the total 3,750 Plus Two schools across the country, 1,250 are being run by the private sector. Plus Two level has contributed a lot to the changing dynamics of the country’s education system. However, there is a need of greater government focus to achieve greater success. The private sector has invested heavily in education . There are around 800,000 students studying in grade XI and grade XII. Out of them, around 350,000 students study in private colleges. If we go by the average annual fees of Rs 40,000, the annual turnover is around Rs 12 - 13 billion. In terms of investment in this sector, within just two decades there has been investment of around Rs 25 billion. However, there is a lot more to do. The government should increase its investment in the Plus Two level and accommodate people from lower income brackets as well. Apart from faculties like education and the humanities, the government should run classes under science and management streams in all districts across the country. Likewise, there is need to introduce a vocational education system in schools and there should be wide choices of subjects so that students can guide others students about the subject they want to opt for.

What are the changes that Plus Two has brought in the education sector of the country?
It has brought several progressive changes. With private players playing a lead role, public colleges have now come up with professional management teams, which has benefited students. I think Plus Two level education has helped our education system to match up to the level of other SAARC nations.

The government has been planning to phase out Plus Two level education but there is still resistance from Plus Two school owners. What is your take on this?
Globally, class one to 12 is considered high school. It is only in Nepal where we have a stand-alone Plus Two level. We should follow international practice. There are many institutions running from zero-plus-two, so they should either start schools or go upwards with Bachelors and Masters level education . However, the government should allot required time for the colleges to do that. Many colleges, especially those in remote areas, cannot comply immediately due to constraints like investment and physical infrastructure. Hence, the government should also give thought to mergers between such institutions.

As someone who has been in the education sector for long, what are your suggestions to students who will be enrolling in the Plus Two level this academic session? What are the areas they should focus on?
I strongly feel that judging the right college is the responsibility of the students themselves. Of late, there have been various unethical practices such as admitting students on a commission basis and offering bright students money. Hence, students themselves should be aware and detach themselves from such false practices. Therefore, students should consult with parents, friends and teachers. Also, there is a tendency to joining colleges in groups. Students tend to follow their friends, which isn’t a good practice either. Plus Two level education is very important in life. Even students who secure distinction marks in SLC are worthless if they fail to do well in the Plus Two level. Rather than being influenced by fancy stuff, students should look for essential facilities.

If someone is looking forward to study science, they should check whether the institution has all the required facilities or not. Also, as much depends on teachers, students should also be sure whether a proper faculty exists in that particular institution or not. Students should also keep in mind their spending capacity while choosing a college.

Like you said, many colleges highlight facilities that they actually don’t have. Isn’t there any regulatory body within HISSAN to look after such issues?
This is a very negative trend in the education sector. At HISSAN, we have tried to stop this through joint cooperation among member colleges. Some colleges have been found offering Plus Two science classes at lowers fees than that of the school level. This trend is not going to take us anywhere. So there needs to be healthy competition and upon realising this, we have come up with a strict code of conduct that all HISSAN members are required to follow.  

Despite Plus Two education in the country growing stronger, many students are still going abroad after SLC. Don’t you think it shows that Plus Two level still has to evolve?
Yes, parents tend to send their children to India and abroad but I don’t see any need of doing this as we are now offering quality education within the country. Also, there are options for A levels, IB and CBSC in Nepal itself. Around 30,000 students go abroad for further studies after SLC. This is not only a loss for the government and the nation in terms of money but also an ultimate loss of human resources.

What are the weaknesses of the Plus Two system in Nepal?
The most disconcerting part is the rampant distribution of licences by the government. There isn’t proper supervision from the concerned authority. Officials from the Higher Secondary Education Board do not visit colleges for monitoring even once in five years.

Likewise, the examination system is haphazard. In a single shift, around 500,000 - 600,000 students sit for examinations every year. So the government should develop a proper mechanism for copy checking and publishing results on time. I feel that an autonomous body for higher studies should be developed, which should be able to generate revenue itself. Likewise, there is also a need for a change in curriculum as per the need.

source: The Kathmandu post,16 June 2013
photo courtesy: The Kathmandu post

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