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Second wave of corona: Quality education compromised – The Himalayan Times

The second wave of the coronavirus has given no respite to the country like a fast cricket bowler who comes harder in the second innings shattering the stumps all around, in front, behind and on the sides.

The second wave in neighbouring India is so intense that it has been rechristened the Tsunami in some quarters instead of the customary wave.

This is likely to be the scenario in Nepal also after a few days.

The signs to this effect have already been seen in Nepalgunj.

Hospital facilities have been stretched beyond their capacity due to the higher number of patients seeking treatment facilities.

It is no wonder then that the schools have been the first to go on a lockdown after barely opening up following the first wave shutdown.

The schools became the first victim this time also as the new virus has been crueler to the youngsters as was the first wave virus with the elders.

It is not to say that its stranglehold has been loose on the senior citizens.

It is just that the virus has extended its cruel fist even to the younglings also.

The schools have, thus, no alternative other than to resort to online education.

Online teaching was under suspicion right from its beginning, since the onslaught by COVID-19,regarding its efficacy.

This has been more than true if the report of a study carried out by Cambridge University and the children watch group, Lu Nibha, is to be believed.

They have made it crystal clear that online education has been far from effective.

The quality of education appears to have plummeted as never before, and the signs of aggravation appear more prominent on the horizon than possible mitigation.

There are several methods for measuring the quality of education. One of them is the quality of the graduates that it produces.

The quality of a product depends on its performance, reliability, impact, safety and economy.

There is performance when the execution is in consonance with the design.

A road engineer, for example, is expected to build good roads.

Reliability is measured by the consistency of the performance. Does a road engineer build as good a road on the following occasions as on the first one?

The other matrix is impact.

This is measured by the ecological consequence of using the product.

The other parameter, safety, is determined by whether the product can be used without any risk.

Yet another indicator of quality, the economy of a product, is known by whether it can be made at an affordable price.

For this, we could take the basis of the Nepali immigrants in the United States.

Some 1.2 per cent of the work force, around 167,000 Nepali nationals, are said to be working in US at the moment. Nepali graduates seem to have performed well, for which they are employed.

Their continuation in jobs indicates their reliability as well as consistency.

The impact of Nepali people in the society is also above average, perhaps, because of their capacity to work amicably with others.

Their diverse culture back home allows them to be harmonious with the people of all tiers in the society where they live.

Nepali nationals have also been found to be safe because they have been working in the United States without creating any risk.

Nepali workers have not been caught red-handed in terrorist activities, such as reckless shooting in the schools or supermarkets.

Nepali people are affordable because they will have completed their education in their own native country. So, the US does not have to invest much in their rearing to become a professional.

The picture is, however, not this rosy on the domestic front.

If we look at the school attendance, the average scores in the major subjects and the score percentage in the SSE (Secondary School Examination) along with the admission and pass rate in higher education, followed by the attendance of the teachers in school as the matrix of quality, it is very dismal.

Close to 7.7 per cent of the students are still outside school in basic education.

Only 70 per cent pass even though 77.4 per cent of the students receive education at this level.

At the secondary level, the situation is still worrisome.

Only 54 per cent of the students undergo study at this level.

About 43 per cent of the students abandon their study without reaching tenth standard.

And 83 per cent of the students leave school in 12th standard.

The average score in Mathematics, Nepali and English has also been dwindling over the years.

These scores of class five in 2012 declined from 53.3, 59.7 and 53.6 per cent to 48.7, 46.3 and 46.8 in 2015. In addition, only 38 per cent of the students scored over 70 per cent in SEE and 41 per cent scored less than 30.

A fleeting glance at higher education will reveal that only 15 per cent admit themselves, and out of this, only 25 per cent pass the examination, leading to a heavy wastage of 75 per cent.

The percentage of absence on the part of the teachers in the government schools is 20 per cent.

Nepali educational quality is thus like a statistician who is jokingly said to feel comfortable with one hand in the freeze and the other in the furnace.

Whilst the quality of education of the foreign workers can be said to be above average, those of the domestic front have left much to be desired in the arena of quality education.

The government has been investing the second highest amount, of around 5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, only next to Bhutan at 6.9 per cent, among the SAARC countries in education.

But its dream of achieving quality in education has unfortunately not yet been realised.

Pokharel is IP Vice Chancellor, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology

A version of this article appears in the print on May 4, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.

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