Perception about school performance

Bishnu Bahadur GC, PhD
Chairperson, School Mgmt Committee, Elite Grand School, Chhuchepati, Chabahil

Performance has been a buzz word in a modern society and equally a concern of all in a society. It means that performance has direct connection in our lives. It has equally broader scope and understanding too. For example, whose performance we are talking about, the location and time frame of the discourse.

At times when judging performance, a question is immediately asked about the performance of the particular person, institutions etc. This paper discusses the performance of schools in line with teaching and learning. Moreover, teaching and learning is a process which has strong connection with the Academic Results, Teacher’s Time On Task and Parent-Teacher Association.  The school’s performance is normally related with the teaching and learning and in modern society, it is being evaluated by the beneficiaries. As the beneficiaries of school performance are parents, teachers, and students, they have been direct source of the information.. On the basis of their perceptions about school performance and available information for this researcher from around the globe, this paper has reached the conclusion on school performance.   

School Performance

School is a place where many people from various corners join hands for the benefit and interest of children; children the stars of the society. Moreover, teaching and learning is a noble work one is involved. A single unit or an individual cannot be the sole representative of the school system that would give the meaning of the whole school. However, there is always reciprocal relation between whole and single. Technology and finance is deployed to enhance better performance of the school. Therefore, an aggregated picture of the school comes to our mind while talking about school performance. In this paper we discuss the Academic Results, Teachers’ Time On Task and Parent-Teacher Association (connecting home and School) as the main components of school performance. Performance as an active form no matter whether this is happening at present or this was completed in the past, we connect the past and present in this paper as well.

Stone (1999) cited by Jr. Urrieta, (2005) termed performance in two definitions, first, performance is an art and second this is the act of completing a task, (P 173). This is an art because every person has/her own creativity and efficiency even they are equipped with advanced equipment and machines. Secondly, this is an act of completing task. While talking about performance in education, this is an act of teaching and learning the knowledge, skills and behavior that takes place between teachers and students. Teachers impart knowledge and skills to their pupils through teaching, demonstrating, interacting with the children, letting children observe, feel, play, practice and work. So, by applying their own skills and techniques, they perform their own duties. Through the ongoing process of teaching and learning students achieve certain level and quality of knowledge, skills and behavior. This means that both process and outcomes come under the definition of performance.

In the case of Nepal, results are more valued than the process. Elger (2015) also viewed that to perform is to produce valued results. He also linked performance with the accomplishment. While going through the texts of both scholars, the meaning of performance resembles each other. Thus, task completed with a high value is performance. Elger further says that “to perform is to take a complex serious of actions that integrates knowledge and skills to produce a valuable result (P.1/6)” In this process, actor may be single or many. In the case of school, teachers and students are mainly responsible for better performance or better learning, however, parents and school management also play crucial role in the performance of children/students. Parents and school management contribute to create better teaching learning environment, because without preparing good environment, neither teachers nor students can give their best performance in the classrooms that leads to better academic and overall results.

For Alexander et al (2005) performance is a mechanism for measuring outcomes and effectiveness (p.2). This definition gives a broader meaning where outcomes indicate both output and its impact. Effectiveness is the result that an individual or group is supposed to achieve. Elger’s attributes of higher levels of performance are quality of results or products, cost effectiveness, levels of knowledge and skills and identity and motivation. For me these attributes have long term connection in improving quality of education. These attributes cover broader perspectives beyond the academic results of students.  

Teaching and learning is a core part in schools and universities. Teachers teach knowledge and skills to their students and students learn from the teachers using their mind, brain and body. Here both teachers and students are active and perform their own responsibilities. Alexander et al (2005) said teaching is a performance event (p.4). Therefore, performance of a school or the university can be recognized if their teachings take place properly and maintain higher level of standard. In this context, school performance is where learning is happening in the classrooms through interaction than teaching merely. Teaching from one end cannot be performed if learning from the other end of students is not happening.

Advocate of progressive education, Jon Dewey emphasized democratic participation and active learning of children in the classroom. Later on many scholars backed it up and advocated progressive education. Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian scholar opined that teaching learning is based more on varied learning resources from nature rather simply text books. Actively engaged in learning and participation is more important than simply reading and attending the class. All scholars who advocated this model of education thought that self-motivation is more sustainable than controlling through discipline. They emphasized fostering intellectual curiosity rather than competitive excellence. Encouraging students to be curious and interactive through the application of various techniques of learning is equally important than just to teach the particular content. Therefore, performance is more to do with process than a product as we see the shift from the product to productivity. Pineau (2005) quoted Conquergoods (1989) “the shift from product to productivity” (P.29) while defining performance. For Pineau (2005) performance is a way of knowing, an intimate and somatic engagement, and a means of “feeling on the pulses” (p.30).  This means that students enhance knowledge and skills through doing, experiencing, reflecting and interpreting where both physical and mental engagements are expected on the part of teachers and students. For Pineau (2005) and Alexander (2005) teaching is performance and this is a collaborative occasion brought to fruition by at least five codependent variables (p.4):

  1. The presence of acting/active bodies;
  2. Reciprocal enactment between teachers and students;
  3. The aestheticized transactional communication process;
  4. Political influence of society on curriculum; and
  5. Knowledge negotiated with passion and necessary compassion (p.4).

We discussed theoretical parts, theoretical analysis and pros and cons as well. Based on this study and field data collected from stakeholders on three contributing components to school performance: the academic results, teaching and learning and connection between home and school, the findings are as follows:


School Leaving Certificate/ Secondary Education Exams (SLC/SEE) Results

Formerly known as School Leaving Certificate and now Secondary Education Exams result is the result of the examination of secondary education that takes place at the end of 10th grade. This used to hold a significant meaning for the people of Nepal and that legacy continues although its weightage is slightly mild today. Until 2072 (2016), the exam held at the end of 10th grade was known as the SLC, but in the year 2073 (2017) the name of this exam was changed to Secondary Education Exams (SEE) (Adhikari, 2018, p.99).To pass the exam one had to secure 32% marks in each prescribed subject when SLC was in place. The percentage of pass rate in SLC used to be hardly 50% though it was improving in the later years. In the year 2014, of the 395013 SLC attempters, 175051 passed the exam, resulting in only 44.32 percentage pass rate OCE (2015). Due to many complaints and complications of marking the results in figure and percentage, it was changed into a letter grading system (Adhikari, 2018, pp.96-97), that is in practice at present.

Due to the new system in practice, there seems little concentration on fail and pass in this exams as the results does not directly indicate fail and pass with numbers. But still those willing to study higher class (grade 11) are required to have scored at least 35 marks (Acharya, 2022). According to an analysis of SEE results by Gorkhapatra Dainik and Kantipur Dainik of 2079/04/12, the results published on 2079/04/11 is the weakest one for the last five years. Out of 495751 students 42 students could score 4 out of 4 and 9633 students scored 3.6-4 GPA which comes to be 1.94%. The highest percentage of students who fall under the category/ range of 2-2.4 GPA is 22.7%. The lowest marks (0.8-1.2GPA) were scored by 3280(0.66%) students. Similarly, the number of students who did not appear the exams is 22640(0.66%). According to Kantipur, 50000 students would not have gotten chance to enroll them in Grade 11 if Guidelines of 2078 published by Curriculum Development Centre was implemented. It means that a criteria of minimum 35 marks in theory subject and 40 marks in practical was compulsory for a final certificate to be graded SEE pass student. This decision was withdrawn for this year as Covid-19 had affected teaching and learning.

SLC/SEE and Education I remember the time of my SLC when private schools were almost nonexistent. Getting through SLC exam was very tough. Despite the odds, the result was in my favor; it changed my worries into happiness leading me to come to Kathmandu for my higher education. I otherwise was preparing to go to India for a job. If SLC result was not in my favor, my present status would be uncertain. Even after 49 years, the situation in the country has not changed much; the pass and success rate is not very encouraging. The scenario in public schools is more discouraging compared to private schools. One of the main reasons now people are moving to the gulf countries for the job is due to their poor performance in SLC/SEE exams resulting inability to proceed ahead either for higher education or for the job.  So, people of this country have not experienced the fruit of the development which should produce an economy in terms of income, services, life changes, education and so on (Hartwick and Peet,2009, p.6). As education and development go hand in hand, education contributes to development and vice versa. If education system itself and its services are not changed what other changes can we hope from education?

The pass percentage of students in private schools has been better compared to students in the public schools. As stated by Thapa (2011) the SLC pass rate of private schools in 2005 was 82.9 percent (pp.37-38). This percentage has gone up to 89.06 percent in the case of private schools in the year 2014 OCE (2014). Similar result was found in a research by the Education Review Office (2018). The mean score in Mathematics, Nepali and Science by the students of grade VIII from institutional schools was 547 vs. 485, 520 vs. 495 and 538 vs.490, (OCE, Poudel,2018, pp.21-62). The latter numbers are the ones from students of public schools. Students attending community schools are traditionally weak in Science, mathematics, and English says Smita Gyawali (2022), Senior Education Officer at ADB’s Nepal Resident Mission. She further says “Low grades in these subjects have not only created barriers for students intending to pursue tertiary education after high school, but even for those planning to take up vocational courses as well.” From these analyses of the results from past to present, performance of students, teachers and schools is not encouraging particularly in the case of public schools. 

Teachers’ Time on Task

Teachers are considered the source of knowledge, which they share with students using various methods of teaching. Traditional teaching is more teachers centric whereas child centric education is the modern concept and it is slowly gaining popularity in the society. This concept of imparting education believes that children have their own capacity, strength and thinking. In this approach teachers are only their gardener; teachers are to take care of the children and to support them after they identify the required needs. As teachers’ engagement with students helps understand the reading, writing and speaking of students this contributes to academic results leading to school performance. So, Teachers and schools are held responsible for good performance or underperformance of students and schools.

Sharma (2001), who in his research said teachers in public schools do not show up regularly and do not teach the children for the full period. This is experienced in many schools especially in remote parts of Nepal. The teachers of the school at rural areas go to class a bit late and stay in the classroom less than they were supposed to and engaged with the teaching and learning.  “Khetala teachers in public schools of Nepal” used to be a subject of critique in media and it is less heard now. It means that a teacher sends another person to school to teach on behalf of him/her, no matter how unqualified that person is. Teachers’ Time On Task indicates the teachers in the school and in the classrooms, their engagement in teaching learning, giving class work/homework, and attending teacher parent meetings. Moreover, there are many more activities/tasks teachers are supposed to perform such as making annual plan, lesson plan, taking assessments and other duties.

Teachers’ regularity is the basic requirement for teaching learning process in the school. Secondly, without teaching learning, students cannot enhance knowledge and skills as they are supposed to. Therefore, teachers’ regularity in school and classrooms, teachers’ teaching /learning and teacher parent meeting as the basic criteria to measure teachers’ time on task. The learning of children can be enhanced if teachers are engaged with their students in teaching and learning. This component varies from one school to another and a big gap was found between public and private schools. In private schools no complaint was heard regarding teachers engagement.

A teacher said,

“I feel proud of being a teacher of this school; I am always excited to enter into the classroom and to share my knowledge with them. I like to give my fullest service to them. No teachers are absent here except if they have urgent and special cases”.

Parent-Teacher Association

There is no such a schedule for parent- teacher meeting, where they could share information about students. Neither the school administration makes a schedule of meeting nor do parents come to school to meet teachers regarding their children’s progress. Parent teacher meeting is very rare in many schools of Nepal. Srivastava (2007) finds that households who choose low-fee private schools do not demonstrate loyalty nor do they engage with schools politically by voicing their concern. There are national and district level associations of guardian association but their efforts are not directed to having meetings with teachers regarding students’ development and learning. Neither the teachers associations have shown concern regarding students’ development. “High-achieving parents typically feel responsibility for their children’s education and act knowledgeably on their concerns. They feel the need for a connection between home and school, and are unwilling to leave education solely to the school and its teachers” whereas low achieving parents see home and school as separate entity Kelly (2007, p.24).

Parent-teacher meetings and their relation are crucial to communicate about the children’s progress and weaknesses. Both parents and teachers can help students through such meetings. Meeting each other and getting information about studies of the children is quite rewarding, one mother expressed her worries about her child as it was not possible for her to meet teachers; I captured her words and have put them in the following table.

Parents’ participation is precious  My son is not doing so well in studies these days. I do not know who is responsible for this, school or my son. He was staying with his father. May be, my husband did not come to the school to inquire about my son or his studies. My son is at higher class in grade IX now. As soon as I heard that his academic achievements and results were going down, I decided to return home from gulf country. I had gone there to make some money with which I could afford my children’s education, pay back our loan and manage home affairs. I am back now; I will meet teachers and learn about the progress of my child regularly. From now on I will take care of the studies of my children. I am here today in the school to know about my child’s position. I will not leave any stone unturned to bring changes in my child’s progress. I am very much hopeful that teachers also will support me to do so.

Parents teachers meeting is quite important to establish communication between teachers and parents for better learning and development of children however this is rarely practiced in our schools. 

Conclusion and recommendation

Performance is a major concern of schools and universities and the whole education system. Everyone in society is concerned of his or others performance. Moreover, school performance is equally important to all no matter who he is; an ordinary person, parents, businessman or high level official. Although the meaning of performance in educational institutions may differ for different people and organizations, both process and product criteria are of great importance, and they influence each other. Performance in progressive education is enhanced through the engagement of teachers and students in teaching and learning.

In the contemporary society, performance is everyday practice inside and outside the school and this is accompanied by academic results. The academic results of SEE did not show very encouraging for the last years including this year. There are a significant number of students who scored below average marks. The below average marks is not a good sign for students/children to progress in future. In this situation, the government of Nepal and each school should diagnose their own deep rooted problem and take initiatives to solve the problems. In fact, children of this time are more aware and smart enough and we just need to guide them. For Foley, the focus is more on mundane everyday social interactions among teachers and students (2005, pp223-224). Wiske (1998) as discussed by Elger (2017) “performance is closely related to learning-for-understanding”(p.3/6). When people learn, grow and understand, they produce better results. With the progression of time, there is a big change in teaching and learning that is produced through teamwork. The performance is not praiseworthy in schools where they lack good teaching and learning, teachers’ time on task and connection between home and school.

Either process criteria or product criteria, school performance in the schools of Nepal is not very encouraging though the students attending private schools in many cases have shown better performance than students in public schools. Teachers in these schools spend more time with their students’ learning as they are accountable to parents. Similarly, Government recent initiatives to establish at least one model school in all 743 municipalities is directed towards improving performance of public schools. In this context, schools either public or private have to learn from each other, develop the concept of partnership and make improvements in present education scenario.

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