Dr. Byanjana Sharma
Last week I got the opportunity to visit several community schools in Far Western and Mid Western Regions under the programme Career Counselling and Motivation, organised by JKK Foundation and has been in operation for quite a while. As with my earlier experiences, headmasters once again told me about their misconceptions regarding the redesigned SEE letter grading system.
While talking to them I felt like they were speaking out of their preconceived notion that no matter what, students who are admitted into the ‘education’ stream in grade 11 are the ones that achieve the lowest GPAs in their SEE. One of the head teachers complained, “I don’t agree with this new type of scoring system which suggests that the weakest of all students should be the ones studying education. In reality, we need the brightest students in this faculty so that they can make the best teachers in the future.”
Yes, I completely agree with the second part of that statement, but her criticism of the SEE scoring system seems unjustified. The descriptive chart for the SEE letter grading system released by the Ministry of Education clearly indicates that the minimum GPA to study science in grade 11 is 2 or “C” and in all other streams including vocational education it is 1.6 or “D+”.
In addition to the minimum GPA of 2 the students have to score 2.4 or “C+” in science and mathematics if they want to go for science otherwise they need to score at least 1.6 (D+) in particular subjects (list of those subjects is also available) if they are joining management, humanities, education or vocational streams, and the minimum average GPA is 1.6. Nowhere is it mentioned that education is the only option for all those students who score the lowest in SEE or who do not get admission in other faculties.
Another issue the head teachers raised during our conversations was the qualifications of the teachers who teach in lower grades. According to a head teacher, the secondary level teachers hesitate to go to the primary level even as substitute teachers. They think that it does not suit their particular skill set. She further expressed her frustration with the fact that the lower grades are the foundation for upper grades, so the teachers who teach these little children must have master’s degree if we really want quality education in community schools. Yes, she was right to some extent; a master’s degree may not be a possible qualification but to be a school teacher at any level a bachelor’s degree is a must in my opinion too.
My argument here is not to support the SEE letter grading system because it may have its strengths and weaknesses, but my concern is teachers’ understanding of it. What is clear from the above conversations is that school teachers need more orientation on the letter grading system so that they will understand that there is no discrimination between different streams in grade 11.
Generally, it is expected that students who choose to study science must have a greater level of academic aptitude, and thus the GPA threshold for the science stream is relatively higher. However, this is not the case in non-science streams. The concerned people should also think about upgrading early grade teachers’ qualifications to offer students quality education from a young age.