In the recent years, say for about a decade, lok dohori (folk song duet between male and female voices) - earlier an important part in the village culture and entertainment - has been a feature of the city music paraphernalia. Also in the cities, political and other forms of dohoris are played to the amusement and boredom of the people. Despite the sheer indifference of the people, the players do not give up.
There is another kind of dohori Tribhuvan University (TU), the nationís eldest higher educational institution, and the strong arms of the major political parties - the studentsí unions - organise and play not to the entertainment but to the utter dissatisfaction and dilemma of the nationís academia. And now that the SLC Board has published this yearís results, this and the next few weeks will be the season to stage this historic duet.
In the village, the winning party could claim the loser as the spouse and take home. In this academic duet, it has always been the unions who win and force their hostage, the TU, to bow down to their pressure. And the political parties, who form the government with the minister of education as the pro chancellor of the university, only see this happen in the name of quality and higher education. This has, so far, been a ritual to once again force the TU to annul its decision made a year ago.
Owning the SLC grads
Now that the SLC results are out, curious eyes are fixed at the possible duet to be staged amidst possible debates, lock-ups and protests. Reportedly, TU had made it crystal clear to the student unions last year that the year 2009 was Ďtheí last year for keeping the intermediate level in its programme. An agreement to this effect was signed to be honoured and free the TU from hosting the junior, school level programmes and move forward with its higher level programmes like other universities around the world.
It is a normal practice in the world that the government manages the higher secondary level programmes as part of the school curricula.
The reason why TU is clearing out the intermediate programmes is not far to seek if conscience is used and impartial judgment is applied. There was a time when TU was the only home for higher education, and higher education started right after SLC. But now times have changed. The government has decided to include grades 11 and 12 at the secondary level, and soon secondary schools will have these grades along with grades 8-10.
TUís own Proficiency Certificate Level (PCL) has the same status as grades 11 and 12. Lately, courses of both 11 and 12 of the governmentís Higher Secondary Education Board (HSEB) and PCL of TU have been made identical. Enough resource has gone to do so with the view that some day these two streams will be made compatible and identical. Now this time has come, and SLC graduates will go to the HSEB-affiliated Higher Secondary schools.
In the past several years, TU was engaged in discussions with the student unions on this issue. TU has repeatedly asserted that with the higher secondary level (PCL) under its umbrella, graduate programmes were suffering in many ways.
For TU, it is high time it began consolidating its graduate programmes and not spending energy and time on the higher secondary level. With the existing number of students, TU requires to hire and maintain a huge roster of teachers to run the PCL. These teachers have to teach many classes per day. This keeps them busy with less time for research and self development.
Second, from now on, TU can focus on the Bachelor level education, which requires teachers to work hard, engage students in their academic task, and make the classes participatory and motivating. With the PCL crowd in the campus, research is virtually impossible. Only partisan politics has fostered at this level.
Third, PCL also takes huge amounts of time in managing the administrative activities such as entrance, class schedule, terminal and final exams and the like. Also, because of the large number of students mostly in the cities, quality of education is difficult to achieve. The teacher-student ratio remains very high.
Fourth, in terms of cost recovery, the programmes have remained as a burden to the university. It is a huge and unmanageable base for the university.
But there is also another side to the story. The government has not been able to open the desired number of +2 colleges in the rural and far flung areas of Nepal. Even in the urban areas, government schools hesitate to open these classes as they demand more time, engagement and labour to teach. As a result, in the urban centers, private +2 schools and colleges are mushrooming on a daily basis. In the rural areas, SLC graduates who cannot afford to leave home for the cities and district headquarters, will have to abandon the desire of ever attending higher education.
There is still a dilemma regarding the realisation of the decision of the university because the nationís education minister says the PCL is here to stay for a few more years. If the TU closes down the PCL level in these regions, and the concerned government agencies do not open +2 colleges/schools, many SLC graduates will have to stay home forever with the certificate in hand.
Most important of all, the nation is creating two classes of youth populations - haves in the urban and semi-urban and have-nots in the rural areas. The latter category will never see the face of a college or a university. We are creating a deprived class in the country, and the number grows annually.
In any case, a university is known for its academic programmes aimed at improving the quality of higher education, promoting research, publication, dissemination of information and supplying the required number and level of manpower to the country. Unfortunately, in our case, the demand and supply curve is never created, so we educate our youngsters to make them literate and forget whatever happens to them. Now, if the TU sticks to its decision and does not bow down to the pressure to reopen the PCL programme, it will have the resource and time to focus on its graduate and post-graduate programmes in several faculties.
This is the need of the hour. Let us pray and hope, the dohori between the student unions and the TU on the one hand and the minister and the TU on the other does not take place, and the dilemma of separating the PCL from the TUís body will be resolved for good.