The Chinese philosopher Confucius is attributed to the quote, “Education breeds confidence; confidence breeds hope; hope breeds peace.” Yet, what happens to hope and peace when the determinant examination of an entire nation fails to give its students the confidence of further education? In 2023, Only 50.91 percent – or only half – of the candidates emerged successful in the results of the grade 12 examinations. The repercussions of this outcome can be far-reaching, notably affecting the now ongoing undergraduate admissions. 182,926 out of 372,637 students are grappling with the challenge of reevaluating their academic paths. Nepal – its parents and students included – cannot afford for this to be a pattern.

The National Examination Board (NEB) released the Grade 12 Grade Enhancement (Supplementary) Examination results on 9th November, which was conducted on September 26 and 27. Out of 117,882 students, 88,947, or 75.45%, have achieved a grade increase. However, it is unclear as to whether these “grade increases” have led to an increased number of passing students, and if so then by how much. Aawaaj was unable to ascertain this from the NEB.

Going into the initial news of failure, nearly half the student population of an entire batch being unable to pursue higher education should be shell-shocking. The question that looms large is whether the shortcomings in Nepal’s higher education system stem from students’ failure to excel in examinations or if the system itself is failing to deliver genuine education. Data reveals that a total of 557,496 students were admitted to various universities in Nepal for undergraduate programs during the fiscal year 2078/79. while only 60,047 managed to complete their studies – or graduate – within the same fiscal year. This stark contrast between admissions and successful completions highlights a concerning disparity within our education system. This situation raises significant concerns not only about the efficacy of our universities but also about the well-being of both students and teachers within the system. It prompts a critical examination of the factors contributing to this discrepancy, which may encompass issues ranging from teaching methodologies and curriculum design to the overall infrastructure and support provided to students.

The upward trend in students seeking education overseas reflects not only their aspirations for excellence but also raises concerns about the local education system’s ability to meet their needs. According to the report of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, 110217 students were granted the No Objection Certificate (NOC) while 12297 were rejected in the fiscal year 2079/2080. In the face of growing numbers of students seeking education opportunities abroad, there is a pressing need to enhance the quality and relevance of education in Nepal to retain and nurture local talent. The overarching goal is to create an education system that not only addresses the academic needs of students but also equips them with the skills and knowledge required for successful careers and adaptability in a rapidly changing world.

First and foremost, students are central to the equation. They bear the responsibility of striving for excellence and demonstrating their aptitude. Karuna G.C., a student preparing for upcoming board exams, voices concerns shared by many students in Nepal. The board exam results have left her in shock as she faces her exams in a few months. “I think that both the students and the education system are responsible for the examination results, but the major problem is the career concerns after studying, as we lack skill-based knowledge,” she says. According to her, and undoubtedly many others, blaming a single entity would not solve this.

Examinations are crucial for academic and career prospects, but when results don’t meet expectations, students can experience emotional turmoil. This is perhaps a sign that Nepal needs a more holistic assessment method that values diverse talents and capabilities beyond conventional exams. Proper communication between parents and teachers, who are both pivotal figures in a child’s educational microcosm, is a necessity. Learning extends far beyond the classroom, shaping students’ attitudes and approaches, but the positive yields of this could be observed directly in their examination results.

The systemic challenges, including limited access to quality education, outdated curriculum, a lack of research and innovation, inadequate resources, and an emphasis on rote learning, create a glass ceiling to students’ potential. Bureaucratic and administrative hurdles often stymie meaningful reform and adaptation to evolving educational needs.

According to educationalist Dr. Bidhynath Koirala, “Recognizing students for their unique abilities, rather than just their grades, is imperative, and the belief that traditional methods struggle to keep pace with current trends and globalization is valid.  The curriculum that we are based on right now is outmoded, and the educational system, encompassing schools, colleges, and the broader framework, should prioritize flexibility. Assessing knowledge solely based on credit hours may not provide an accurate measure of what is valued and often looked for in the modern workforce.”

Ultimately, the quest for a stronger educational system in Nepal necessitates a collective effort and an unwavering commitment to provide the nation’s youth with the best possible opportunities for growth and success. If proper, functional learning in the classroom and beyond is not harmonious with the examinations the students need to pass, then the results of this year shouldn’t be surprising. While individual students do need to take the initiative to work towards personal excellence, it is still the responsibility of the system to provide them with a learning ecosystem with incentives that make them want to learn and excel. Nepal needs its students, and the system better show that before it is too late.