Budhanilkantha School was the first to introduce O/A level studies in Nepal in 1985 after Cambridge University, UK approved it as an independent centre. In 1987, having run Ordinary Level (O level) for two years, it introduced A Level. "Only a few SLC graduates were selected for O Level, then they went on to study A Level," says NP Sharma, the school's principal. Budhanilkantha School did not just pioneer in providing internationally recognised courses but also set a landmark for producing the highest number of toppers. Only last year, it produced five A Level Nepal toppers.
"In A level, you have to appear in four subjects, of which only General Paper (English) is mandatory," says Anup Adhikari, exams manager at the British Council. "Students can choose to study as per their preferences, like Physics, Sociology, Business Studies, Thinking Skills together," he adds. In +2 or other intermediate studies, subjects to be studied are prescribed and students don't have much choice. The MoE and the British Council are the authorised bodies providing licenses to schools and colleges who want to offer A levels. "The exam questions are sent from UK," says Adhikari, "The British Council just administers them." A student can sit for the exams either in May/June or October/November, which Adhikari believes helps students to prepare well in advance. He also assures that the exams are conducted fairly.
Principal of Chelsea International
Academy, Sudhir Kumar Jha claims that his college has all that's
required to run A level courses. "We have the best teachers available
in the Valley, most of them are A-level graduates," he says. The
college was established just last year but it produced O level topper
Raghu Aditya who scored 3As and 2Bs. Raghu says, "I didn't like the SLC
pattern which has a fixed syllabus and students can easily pass if they
study by rote." An A level student, Raghu keenly analyses and tries to
understand all his subjects. Though O level is banned by the Nepali
government, the course is recognised elsewhere in the world.
Studying A level is expensive as the exam fees alone cost up to Rs 5,800 per subject, plus heavy admission and monthly fees. But Raj Laxmi Golchha, chairperson of Kritika Education Foundation in Biratnagar which introduced A-level course this year, says, "I don't understand why colleges in Kathmandu charge heavy fees." The Foundation charges a monthly fee of Rs 3,500 for science subjects and Rs 3,000 for management courses, while some colleges in Kathmandu charge nearly Rs 8,000-10,000 per month. She adds, "Everyone can't afford to go to Kathmandu for higher studies where living expenses are even higher."
Prabin Chandra Subedi, an A-level graduate from Orient College whose application has been accepted by Lee University in America shares similar thoughts: "The grades I obtained helped me get through to a good university." This fact is made more apparent by Nelish Pradhan, last year's world topper in Sociology from Rato Bangla. University of Richmond, where he applied, sent him plane tickets so he could fly out for an interview and back. Says Anup Adhikari: "Some colleges and universities even waive fees for A-level graduates."
maintain the standard in A-level teaching schools and colleges,
Cambridge Educator's Association Nepal (CEAN) was recently formed. The
association's president Bishwo Nath Prajapati says that interaction
among teachers of various institutes providing A level were lacking
before. "Now, we want to focus on quality education by training
teachers through local trainers," he adds. Currently, the British
Council invites teachers from Cambridge University to train various
teachers of A-level teaching schools and colleges. With the teachers
keeping updated, the students are sure to benefit.