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Still remember the days when, in an overflowing class of 52 students, a teacher would sit at the front desk grading piles of papers the students had submitted as part of their bi-monthly examination.

These were the years when we prioritized grades over knowledge. As soon as the bimonthly drew close, everybody turned tight-lipped, nobody slacked. Everybody made sure to put in all-night and achieve good results in the bi-monthly. The classroom turned into a war zone. The whole atmosphere grew tense; friends turned into foes; healthy competition got replaced with jealousy and envy.

But once we started with our A levels the level of competition decreased. Our school began to encourage us to participate in different co-curricular activities. Along with our studies, we also started getting involved in different activities of our choice. The course becomes more creative and flexible; the subject got more interesting. Teachers started encouraging us to interact and exchange different ideas. Did this dilute the knowledge-gaining process? Not at all. On the contrary, this led us to work harder than ever before.

But not all Nepali students are fortunate enough to escape the grade trap. The culture of studying solely for exams afflicts even university education in our country. Honestly speaking, universities and other institutions providing tertiary educations in our country are hardly any different from the way of our school are. Wander around any one of the campuses or colleges that dot the valley, and you will see right next to it a stationary or a photocopy shop selling notes and guidebooks of different subjects, which promise the students high grades and good results if they mug them up properly.

The education system in Nepal doesn’t promote personal initiatives, research and creativity. All we are made to do is mug things up by heart and write them down during exams. Peter W Budde, the US Ambassador to Nepal, claimed in one of his articles that Nepal’s education is not preparing the youth for the 21st century. The fear of grades does not allow for self-expression and individual interests. We live in a constrained society dictated by strict paradigms. We are not given the opportunity to explore things ourselves.

Think of 10 years old boy who is made to repeat a year in school just because he cannot perform on the same level as his peers. Over time, he might just stop feeling capable of doing anything and might force him to perform according to certain set standers, if, at the end of the day. It might end up destroying his future? Who knows? The little ten years old boy might have been interested more in arts and literature than in math and science. Who knows? This boy might have been a budding musician but a terrible student.

I have a friend who is a good guitarist. Another friend of mine is a professional comedian. And yet another loves tinkering with electronic devices. Then there is a rebel who always disagrees with everything and everyone. They all have their own interests and hobbies. They all hold different aspirations and want to achieve different things in their lives. Some of them are good students, while others are not. How inflexible, illiberal education systems like ours can cater to the interests of a struggling musician and a future engineer?

I wish things to change as soon as possible. I hope that a major overhauling of our education system takes places soon. In a liberal education system, which is what we need, personal initiatives and original ideas are valued more than rote* learning. Competitions turn into collaborations and students enjoy what they learn and learn what they like the most. We have so many hidden talents around us who are shunned by the current education system. I hope our government does something to salvage those talents and make the best use of them.

Fast-forwarding to today; I still continue to do what I love. Failures, though bitter, have shaped me and provide me with lessons that I shall always treasure and my interests have taken me to places I had never imagined. Yes, I love studying; but I also want to continue with my interests and hobbies.