Suttam and Tulsi, grade 9, have to be at school by 6:00 a.m. Other than an hour break to return home for breakfast, they will be in school until 6:00 p.m. After dinner, they will complete two-three hours of homework before going to bed. School runs from Sunday through Friday for all students. While other grades may go to school from 9:00-4:00, grades nine and ten follow this more rigorous schedule.
At school, Suttam and Tulsi’s class of nine students will stay in the same classroom all day while the teachers switch to come to their room. They take the following subjects: Nepali, Nepali Grammar, English, English Grammar, Math, Optional Math (this is required), Social Studies, EPH (Environment, Population and Health). There is no time for P.E., Music, Art or other electives.
Suttam and Tulsi will take eight exams each year, many of them two or three hours long. The exams will cover all of the material previously taught. They cannot pass onto the next grade without passing the final exam at the end of the year. The boys received their latest exam results yesterday. Only the top two students in the class received passing grades (Suttam was number two).
Many of the grade ten students chatted with me during our break times and during the earthquake evacuation. They begged me to visit their class so they could have a little break from their intense schedule. At the same time, they knew the principal would not allow me to use even a minute of their time since they are in the middle of preparing for important exams. Sure enough, when I asked about spending time with them, he did say that they were too busy. Twelve hours a day, six days a week, and not a moment to spare.
This is just a glimpse into one school in Kathmandu. I do not know how widespread twelve-hour days are, but it is clear that the tenth grade exam is an extremely high-stakes test. In another post, I will write about a visit to a very different school just a short drive away.
An unrelated note: I know that I have replied to every comment on this blog, but some of them seem to have disappeared. I’ll keep trying, but please know that I do appreciate the comments and take time to reply to them.