Dr. Mahashram Sharma, the Chairperson of National Examinations Board (NEB), has served the academia of Nepal for three and a half decades embracing catalytic roles in various intervals of time, beginning as a high school teacher, climbing the ladder of success as Secretary at Ministry of Education, and holding other highly respectable positions that brought him both fame and fortune.
After completing his I.Sc., Dr. Sharma joined Janata Secondary School, Baglung in 2033 BS. Serving as a science teacher for three years paved him the way to higher study in Kathmandu where he obtained a B.Sc. degree. Then, he taught Mathematics and Science at Khumjung High School, Solukhumbu.
His keen interest in working as a permanent high school teacher came into halt after he missed the interview deadline. But his motivation towards the government service and determination to reach the policy level helped him succeed in Public Service Commission examinations and he was later appointed as a School Inspector of Kalikot district.
Working in Kalikot for five years was a milestone in academic reformation of the upper hills of that area. Then he was transferred to Terai district, Sarlahi. The work he accomplished in Sarlahi is noteworthy which he often shares with pride. He was successful in appointing 190 female teachers toppling down the previously set faulty examinations and results.
It’s a common phenomenon among the government employees to get transferred frequently. He had had a privilege to work as Exam Controller in Chitwan, District Education Officer in Kalikot and Bajura before he succeeded as the Under Secretary of Ministry of Education. Subsequently, he worked as the District Education Officer in Lalitpur, Regional Deputy Director in Far Western Region and Examination Control Office, Bhaktapur where he served for two years. During that period, he also gained an MPhil degree from Kathmandu University.
He has gained an augustly rich experience of working in different divisions and departments of Ministry of Education where he served as Deputy Director, Director, General Director before he got promotion to Joint Secretary. After working in various policy level positions, he reached the top-notch position of Ministry of Education shortly before his retirement.
He utilized his retirement time for completing his PhD degree. Subsequently, he was appointed as the Chairman of Citizen Investment Fund for two years, and he is now currently leading National Examination Board (NEB) as Chairperson.
College Readers has caught up with Dr. Sharma for his views on current education status of grades eleven and twelve and prospective plans. Excerpts:
Your career-oriented journey has reached the apex level from scratch. What remarkable work did you perform to opportune the grassroot enthusiasts whilst being in policy making level?
When I was working as joint secretary, I got an opportunity to be an officer in Teacher Service Commission. I published the result of teachers in 2062 which had been obstructed from 2052 BS. I also made the decision to complete the pending interview of teachers, which was similar to the provision of Public Service Commission. So, I think, I reached the targeted destination as I was firm to accomplish it.
How do you analyze the educational development spectrum of Nepal?
While analyzing the statistical fact, the enrolment of students is ever increasing. Similarly, while analyzing the status of education from 2001 to 2022 AD, we have made a huge achievement, but it is insufficient. Still, our working pace should be intensified, and our apex level of success should be accomplished. In this regard, we should work a lot to meet the demand of time and the society as we are lagging meeting the global trend of education. The education should be kept in priority as the part of development and to grab the global trend of education.
After the immersion of grades eleven and twelve in school level education, the quality and charm of ten-plus-two education seem to be diminishing. As the Chairperson of NEB, how would you rectify it?
I do not agree that there has been declination in the charm of ten-plus-two education after it got immersed into NEB. In those days, the entire education administration was run by the center which was on the spotlight, and the media and people showed more concern, but now the power has been distributed amid three tiers of government—federal, provincial and local. So, it seems that the charm is diminishing but in reality, its spark is ever spreading. In other words, the management of education up to secondary level is now handled by the local government. It is true that NEB is not only limited to evaluation but also prepares plans and policy corresponding to exams and analyzes the results and prepares clear framework for education. It is the guardian organization that supervises, mentors and ensures all levels of examinations are conducted fairly and in time.
The evaluation system changed from percentage to letter grade. But students’ overall performance is still undermined. What plans do you have to improve the system?
When NEB was formed, it had planned to evaluate students of the entire school education in true grading system. We have prepared a handbook regarding in-depth evaluation of children encompassing all learning aspects and making grading system a mirror of students’ learning outcome. The handbook gives the idea about preparing appropriate questions incorporating the syllabus grids and objective of the course that can assess all the aspects, such as knowledge, understanding, analytical capacity, and creativity and so on from Grade Six to Eight. For its execution, we have already prepared TOT and sent it to all schools of the local level. Similarly, we are planning to prepare ‘Question Bank’ for three core subjects: English, Mathematics and Science in order to establish uniformity in conducting exams and helping students practice for examinations. Our target is to prepare such materials step by step for all levels of school education as per our ten years’ strategic planning.
Curricula are the most vital aspect of quality enhancement, but they have not been updated for ages. When will you update them?
As per the Nepalese Curriculum Policy, the curriculum was to be updated within a certain period of time in the past, but the government has now brought the policy of updating curriculum at any time as per need.
Most ten-plus-two schools have the grievances that the provision of setting the examinations of grade eleven by host schools has completely diminished the evaluation system and quality. Why did you stop taking the board examinations of grade eleven?
The decision was made by the government during the time of Covid pandemic. The objective of such a decision was to make each school accountable and responsible. In global practice, especially in the SAARC countries, the Board conducts the exams of Grades 11 and 12. In this regard, we are also intending to explore a possible way to consolidate the marks of Grade 11 and12 and issue a single marksheet.
Although ten-plus-two education has been brought under School Education, the course content, subjects and teaching pedagogy resemble the pre-university course. What is your view on this?
It is obvious that the 12th grade education resembles preuniversity curriculum. Subsequently, its products are sent to university and labor market. So, each school should conduct the exams of grade 11 as fairly as the exam of 12th grade taken by the NEB, which eventually strengthens the credibility of both the exams.
Why are we still pursuing the Education Act- 2028 BS although we witnessed lots of political and social upheavals and reforms in various intervals of time?
The country must settle so many provisions corresponding to federal system. It should decide on the common right, and the separate rights to the government bodies of all three levels. We had practiced the unitary system of government for a long time in the past, and it’s been just a decade since we adopted the federal system. So, we have to figure out many issues and address the rights allocated by the Constitution and amend the act as per the sentiments of federalism. We have to prepare the list of common rights and distribute the power to the three tiers of government. So, in my perspectives, the government will surely amend the education act by embracing the carpe diem for the assurance of a better future of learners.
Ten-plus-two schools in Nepal are not only the main reason for quality enhancement also a robust source of income of the government. Why is the government still reluctant to acknowledge their contributions?
I don’t think so. The government has treated both private and public colleges equally. They both use the same curricula, participate in the same exams and get evaluated. Their stewardship is different, but both are treated equally. Similarly, we are intending to introduce some programs in order to empower the teachers of both public and private institutions. Private and public institutions seem distinctive in terms of managerial work. And all private colleges are not in approach of the public because they are extortionate. So, our concern is to ensure both (private and public) institutions are accessible to the general public as far as possible and upgrade the standard of quality education of public institutions.
Eventually, what message would you like to convey to the reader?
I would like to express my gratitude to the team College Readers for giving me a privilege of sharing my perspectives and plans with the reader. NEB is an autonomous institution which formulates the plan, policy, program, and strategy concerning exams and evaluation (results). It also analyzes the results and prepares the strategic plan. Recently, the NEB has started an online system to provide facilities to students. So, I expect to get cooperation from organizational to individual level.