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The Iron Gate and Nepal economy

world Updated: Jun 23, 2011 00:59 IST
Utpal Parashar

Results of this year’s School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exam, Nepal’s equivalent of the class 10 board exam in India, were announced this Monday. And like previous years, the Iron Gate, popular name for the exam due to its difficulty quotient, remained closed for many.

Of the nearly 400,000 students who appeared, only 220,000 managed to scrape through. The pass percentage of 55.5 % was 9% less than last year.

A year earlier the number of those who passed through the Gate was 4% less than 2008.

The pass percentage dropped despite officials giving 5 grace marks to students who failed in two subjects — nearly 18,000 students benefited from this move this year. Which means only 51% students would have crossed the Iron Gate if they were denied those extra marks.

Exam officials put the blame for continuous fall in pass percentage to stricter methods of conducting the exam like mobilization of police to provide security in examination centres — a move that may have prevented many from adopting unfair means to pass.

A debate is already underway on how the pass percentage can be increased next year. More allocation or funds, better utilization of resources and training of teachers and reduction of disparity between private and public schools are some suggested panaceas.

Whether these measures (if implemented) have any positive impact will only be known next summer. But the results that brought dejection to 180,000 students also don’t augur well for the country’s economy.

Poor pass percentages mean most of those who fail would not continue their education. This in turn would rob Nepal of enough skilled manpower, something the country badly needs to get out of the cycle of low GDP rates of only 3 or 4% each year.

“Performance in SLC can be directly linked to incidence of poverty, social exclusion and shortage of skilled labourers. Lack of good education means that Nepali youths are able to contribute less to the GDP, thus the country misses opportunities to develop,” said a The Himalayan Times editorial.

The ‘Kantipur’ editorial said the results showed not just 45 pc students failed to scale the Iron Gate — teachers, schools, education ministry and policy framers were also unsuccessful.

Unless serious thought is given on improving the education sector and increasing pass percentages, the Iron Gate will continue to remain closed and the economy keep getting hurt.