Quality of schools is critical for economic growth in developing countries, Stanford expert says

An article published recently by Eric Hanushek of Stanford University says that “the quality rather than the quantity of education is key to boosting a nation’s economy, especially in the developing world”!

What a surprise for Nepal, other developing countries, UNESCO, and many bilateral donors. The reason being that policies, funding, strategies and activities have all been focused for the past decade or more on meeting quantity measures such as enrolment rates and DRIVEN by the Millennium Development Goal of Universal Primary Education.

Hanushek says:
“Rates of school attendance, student enrollment and years of school do not matter as much as many would believe. In the past quarter-century, many experts have called for a focus on “human capital” in schools and the marketplace. Human capital is the stock of knowledge, habits, and social and personality attributes, including creativity, that have economic value and that are rewarded in the labor market.

But this movement toward increased human capital has been misguided in its implementation, as it has led to policies largely seeking to increase head counts, enrollment and retention in schools. It ignores the importance of quality issues related to cultivating skills and knowledge among students.Too much attention is paid to the time spent in school, and too little is paid to the quality of the schools and the types of skills developed there,” (Hanushek wrote with co-author Ludger Woessmann, an economics professor at the University of Munich.)

So once again we have a damning opinion on the misguided SSRP in Nepal which many of us pointed out in 2009 only to be ignored and vilified!

You can access the full article from Hanushek here Human Capital

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Quality Education in Nepal-A lost cause?

Teacher&studentsNepal, as other countries has not one but THREE education systems, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. Each has differing problems, needs and solutions, but an almost identical organisational change process is needed in each case.
The education requirements for each system need clearly defining, and then the organisational system process applied to each.
The first stage for each system MUST be to define the end point, the goal of the transformation, and this surely can be initially stated as “Quality Education” but this needs further definition for clarity. These definitions can contain any components thought important, from inputs, to outputs, and both mediated by student needs.
But this has always been the problem in Nepal, that there is no clear vision of the final end point, just a list of problems and unconnected random solutions. This is NOT how systems work or are transformed and was the predicted failure of the SSRP articulated by some of us as early as 2010.
Once these end points are determined and defined as the desired position, the current position can be scanned and compared. The gap between the two is then identified which shows what what needs doing, simple! No it isn’t, because this gap analysis needs further consideration regarding the sequence and connectivity of tactics to change the system. A recent example: as part of the SSRP the MoE threw a bucketful of training at teachers in primary schools; did it work? No it didn’t. They conducted a “name and shame campaign”, also without result. The list of random interventions is endless with almost $3 billions spent on them.
Within the primary system teacher training is certainly a need, but only as part of a wider issue related to “teacher change” in terms of behaviour, attitudes and values. You can throw as much training as you like at an uncommitted teacher but you will be disappointed if you expect to see a change. Equally you can lay down a policy of English medium in primary schools, but if the teachers themselves are incapable or unwilling you are fighting a losing battle.
The real failure of education system change in Nepal though is at the highest level. Undoubtedly the same people who designed and blindly implemented the SSRP are now involved in developing the SSDP, so how can we feel confident of success? Do they have any globally acclaimed system transformation experts as part of the team? Have they looked at recent research into defining, measuring and developing Quality Education in Nepal specifically?
I end with a small offering, an outstanding piece of research conducted by a young woman in Kathmandu over 18 months and based on a wider 5 years experience of developing 200 primary schools. Sangita Bhandari worked full time on this research in many of these schools to propose a clear framework of Quality Education that should be the start point for any transformation. Processes, tools, training programmes, community workshops, pedagogy, and even student evaluations of teachers all emerged from it.
Do those involved in the SSDP have even the slightest inclination to look at it here Nepal Quality Education

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Quality Education-Online Learning Update

Quality Education Modules Update


  • This is our first Newsletter since launching Quality Education Global for online learning as we celebrate registrations and interest from Belgium, Denmark, UK, Nepal, Finland, Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Nigeria. The first Module, Quality Education-The Global Challenge, is now complete with all 11 units uploaded and accessible with passwords for registered users.
  • The first 9 units in this module are essential background material before the last two units can be understood or accessed via a new password. This is important because it is placing quality education in context with early units introducing:
    • The UNICEF mandate on Child Centred Development
    • The UNESCO and UNICEF frameworks of quality education
    • The Millenium Development Goals as drivers for quality
    • Our Nepal research and Quality Education Framework
    • Measuring quality through perception tests such as SEEQ and MALS
    • Our Nepal perception test of quality, the QEPT

Once these units are completed and reviewed a new password gives access to units 10/11. There is now a greater focus on HOW quality education can be developed in a single school or in a whole education system.

  • Unit 10 describes how quality was developed in 200 Nepal primary schools, the process followed and some of the tools used. You will see the effect of pedagogy on quality, how a wider approach is needed beyond mere teacher training. Perhaps most importantly to some, you can now download some of our valuable materials to use for your own programmes.
  • Unit 11 describes how quality can be developed in whole education systems and shows it to be a very complex undertaking involving several transition stages before the final vision is attained. This is the realm of organisational psychology with tools from David Nadler, Michael Fullan and Peter Senge highlighted. This unit is likely to be of most interest to people in Ministries or Departments of Education.

We are now working on the second Module, Educational Psychology, which is taken from part of our Foundation programme described in Unit 10 earlier. This Module will look at the psycho-social learning environment in schools as part of the Quality Education Framework. Three major question areas will be explored: Questions about Child Needs, The Curriculum, and The Learning Process for Child Centred Learning.

Once again the only people who can access this Module will be those who have completed Module 1, and we will release slides from our Foundation programme to completers.

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Quality Education-Illusion of change

Illusion of change

by Swagat Raj Pandeymyrepublica.com

It has been reported that all students appearing in SLC exams will now automatically pass. But ‘all pass’ is more a myth than reality


In the context of Nepal, one of the key aspects of school education is the examination system which helps materialize the abstract notion of ‘quality’ in education. Examination system reflects the understanding and legitimacy of ‘quality education’ that everyone agrees on. In that sense, the general understanding of ‘quality education’ has been associated with the marks received in exams. Students securing more marks are considered ‘good’ students and schools with greater percentage of students with high marks are considered ‘good’ schools.

Interestingly, this understanding of quality in relation to test scores is not only commonsensical, but an accepted policy practice in Nepal. Carney and Bista (2009), in their paper on genealogy of education reform since 1990, mention members of the team involved in preparing the second master plan sharing that the “…test scores became the one and only criterion of quality of education. All of us understood quality from that perspective.”Given such domination of ‘test scores’ and their association with quality, the decision to introduce ‘letter grading’ in SLC exams comes as a welcome relief. The Office of Controller of Examinations piloted letter grading with 99 technical schools last year and it will be implemented in ‘regular’ SLC exams from this year. Incidentally, the much-hyped introduction of grading system in SLC examinations is being seen as a panacea. But the wider context is important.

No change

This government decision, in reality, does not bring any significant change in assessment processes or systems. Apparently, the decision on letter grading is more a response to reduce student suicides after SLC results and improve the rate of return in education financing rather than a concerted effort to change the assessment system per se. The only evident change is the change of ‘mark sheet’ into ‘grade sheet’. In fact, the numbers obtained by students will simply be converted into ‘letters’. This means there is no impact on how teachers teach, students learn, or how the assessment is made.

It has been reported that all students appearing in SLC exams will henceforth automatically ‘pass’. But ‘all pass’ is more a myth more than reality. Unlike the earlier ‘mark sheet’ that mentioned ‘pass’ or ‘fail’, the new ‘grade sheet’ will not mention ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ but simply present the grades and grade point received. This means that while no student is labeled as ‘failed’, not everyone is necessarily ‘pass’ as well. In addition, there is ambiguity over whether all of them would be allowed to pursue further education.

One major drawback of this decision is lack of wider consultation with stakeholders, both within and outside the education system. This has contributed to confusion. Since the grade system has been hastily brought, it lacks ownership and with it there is the risk that it won’t be able to serve its primary purpose.

Misplaced focus

Despite lack of consultations, the decision to implement ‘letter grading’ in SLC exams has been made. So how will the new ‘grade sheet’ look? What does getting A+, B, C, D, E or N actually mean? Will the students receiving D or E or N be able to pursue higher education? How will the admission criteria in class 11 be changed? While the issue of interpretation is important enough once grade sheets are handed out, the focus on the interpretation negates a more pertinent question of the reform of assessment system.

The School Sector Reform Plan and now the School Sector Development Plan both envisage and provision for structural reform in education, with class 1-8 designated as basic education and 9-12 as secondary education. This also means that class 10 exams would no longer be the school leaving exams. With such plans in hand, introducing letter grading in SLC exams for class 10 in such haste raises issues of credibility and intention. Moreover, as evident in the case of students from technical SLCs last year now enrolled in class 11, the HSEB will continue to use the earlier forms of test scores, creating a disjoint between the letter grading in SLC and test scores in other classes.

The study on the learning outcomes of grade 8 students in 2011 clearly highlights that students are good in tasks related to memorization and recall but not those related to application or to abilities at higher cognitive levels. Based on this, it has explicitly provided recommendations to the SLC Examination Board, emphasizing the need to rethink examinations to incorporate applicable skills and allow for creative thinking.

The current assessment system solely depends on question papers, with primary on lower order cognitive skills. Lack of coherence in curriculum and question paper is a stark reality of the assessment system in Nepal. The question papers and the examinations do not necessarily measure what they are really supposed to measure—problem-solving and other applicable skills. In that sense, the measurement derived from such assessment would not be valid, whether it’s depicted in numbers or grades.

Performance of students is attributed to various factors ranging from pedagogy, socio-economic conditions, learning environment and their cognitive development. While these attributes are responsible for how students perform, it is imperative that students are examined on what they actually need to learn.

Even with reservations, schools, parents and students will gradually acclimatize themselves to the new ‘grade sheet’. This, I would argue, would be much more problematic as once the rest of the stakeholders start getting used to the change to ‘grade sheet’ from ‘mark sheet’, the major issues and concerns related to the overall reform of the assessment system would continue to be neglected.

In order to improve teaching-learning process, the essential benchmark of ‘quality education’ —the assessment system—needs to be reformed. On that regard, the idea of introducing ‘letter grading’ in assessment is praiseworthy; however, the risk lies in its realization and unquestioned implementation. Given the outright failure and mockery of Continuous Assessment System (CAS) with similar philosophical approach, there is a fear that this letter grading system, too, would fail. The ‘letter grading’ is essential but we could have been better prepared.

The author is a Program Officer at the Alliance for Social Dialogue

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