24th March 2019,
On Sunday, both the teachers and students in different schools across the country were in for a shock after they saw the question paper for “compoulsory English” subject and howlers. These students were appearing for the Secondary Education Examination—the exam that until recent past was considered the “iron gate”. Mistakes were found in question papers prepared for Province 3, Province 5 and Karnali Province as well as those examinees retaking the exam, while question papers of Province 6 were loaded with spelling errors. In January, in the nation-wide grade 11 Nepali examination, the Nepali question paper too was littered with grammatical errors, favouring a grammar rule repealed in 2016 by the Nepal Academy.
Clearly, the authorities at the National Examination Board, which falls under the Ministry of Education and is tasked with preparing the exam questions, are not taking their jobs seriously. Sheer negligence on their part has been repeated. But as if that was not enough, what is more shocking is the attitude of Chandra Mani Paudel, chairman of National Examination Board. When probed about the latest act of carelessness, Paudel dismissed the mistakes as “human error” effectively ruling out the possibility of compensation. “They are just typos result of human error,” Paudel was reported saying. But how are we to believe it so since this is not the first time the authorities concerned have been complicit in their negligence. This kind of blunder is simply inexcusable.
It cannot be that there is not even one expert to proofread the paper. Education experts opine that questions are prepared without paying due attention. And there is every reason to believe so. Also, the students who did not answer the questions because they were incomprehensible should get marks. Students are judged for those three hours for the hard work they put in in a year. They need not suffer because of someone else’s sloppiness.
This is not something we should be reminding the authorities: The question paper setting process needs to be vetted by the head and members of the boards of studies concerned and later by an expert panel. Repeated mistakes have only damaged the reputation of the National Examination Board. According to the officials, the question papers remain sealed until the exam starts at different centres to maintain secrecy. Understandable. But there should be a system in place that makes sure that errors do not creep in anywhere between the setting of the question papers and its final form which ends in the hands of the students in the examination hall.