Ban on guess papers and guidebooks: Students' perspectives
During the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exams, students were copying their answers from guess papers and guidebooks. The invigilator did not mind the cheating; in fact, he was keeping his eye outside the door rather than inside the exam hall so that he would be able to inform the students before the external exam supervisor entered the classroom.
“When the invigilator told us that the Chief District Officer (CDO) had come for inspection, all the students in the class threw away their guess papers to a cupboard. Unfortunately, the cupboard was right above my head and all of those guidebooks which missed the cupboard fell on my desk,” says Prajwal Rajbhandari who reminisces his SLC examination some 10 years back in Malangwa, Sarlahi.
He also adds that the exam was considered a stricter one than the previous years. “When I look back now, it may sound funny but the fact is students were encouraged to cheat by their teachers, parents and invigilators,” he says.
Guess papers and guidebooks are compilations of either short notes of the chapters in the course books or are anthologies of various probable questions with answers. Three months ago, The Ministry of Education decided to ban such books meant for SLC and +2 students. Guess papers are guidebooks and frequently criticized by experts for feeding students with limited knowledge and its extensive use as an unfair means during exams.
“It surely kills the creativity of the students. Guess papers may help them pass exams but in the long run, they’ll have a hard time comprehending the textbooks,” says Rajbhandari.
Ayurda Pradhan, 18, who is studying in class 11 at St Mary’s School, Jawalakhel, agrees with Rajbhandari. “Thankfully, my school was always against guess papers and guidebooks. So I never used them,” she says.
She adds that there were some who used it anyway but their teachers used to easily figure out that the student had copied from the guides. “Write your own ideas or don’t write at all is what the teachers used to tell us. They even used to confiscate such books if they found students using them inside the schools,” she says.
Having said this, Pradhan, however, isn’t convinced by the government’s move to ban guess papers and guidebooks. “Our education system pressurizes students to obtain more marks in the exams rather than being able to learn and be judged according to one’s capability,” she says, pointing out that students are in no way to be blamed for using guess papers.
According to her, the government still doesn’t understand the plight of students. “Many use it as reference because the language seems to be simple. It may limit the knowledge level of the students but it can be helpful for students who aren’t privileged with good teachers or afford tuition classes,” she says.
It’s been long since educational institutions have been criticized for pushing their students to acquire high scores with education only helpful to enable them to get through the exams. Schools and colleges were also termed as institutions established to distribute certificates rather than providing students with quality education.
“The government rather than focusing on banning should start an awareness campaign on the negative impacts of usage of guess papers and guidebooks,” Pradhan says.
The overemphasis on examinations is regarded as a big drawback in the Nepali education system. Students aren’t assessed according to their talents and skills but they are judged by the amount of lessons they can memorize.
Deepak Thapa (some names are changed), 17, a class 9 student, has also been a victim of such system. After failing his class, he decided to quit school. After convincing him for a month, he finally changed his decision and went back to school.
“I couldn’t understand anything the teacher said, so guidebooks were an easy option for me,” he says. But even guidebooks and guess papers couldn’t save him from failing his exams as he says that sometimes he couldn’t understand the questions. However, he adds that he’s been setting aside the guidebooks as he’s taking extra classes in the school and slowly getting to learn rather than memorizing everything line by line.
“Unless the government thinks out of the box, the education system is definitely not improving. And in such a situation, how can they expect the students to think from outside the box?” says Pradhan.
Rajbhandari, on the other hand, takes the government’s move as a positive one. “We can take this just as a start. As these problems get addressed, many will resurface and get addressed gradually,” he says.
The ban on guess papers is to help students recognize their ideas and originality. But such ban alone won’t ensure creativity of the students. The government should look behind the issue to understand the excessive use of guess papers by students. The under-emphasis in learning and the overemphasis on getting high marks are taking its toll on the students. The ban, however, will hopefully help the government review the education system and bring positive changes to it.