The ‘Iron Gate’: High-Stakes Assessment at age 16 in Nepal and England

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In Nepal, the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) assessment taken by 16-year-olds at the end of Grade 10 of formal schooling performs a similar function to the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examination in England in that it summarises individual, school, district and national achievement and acts as a filtering mechanism to the final stage of schooling and, ultimately, higher education and the jobs market. Both the SLC and GCSE examinations have come under criticism in
recent years, with some comparable issues arising, for example: (1) differences in success rates between pupils in different socioeconomic circumstances, types of school, genders and ethnic groups; (2) the role of teacher-assessed coursework and associated accusations of bias; and (3) the extent to which examination questions test recall, comprehension or application. Based upon interviews with students, teachers, academics and senior civil servants in Nepal, this paper draws comparisons between the two systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)582-602
Number of pages21
JournalCompare : A Journal of Comparative and International Education
Issue number4
Early online date11 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • adolescent schooling
  • secondary education
  • Assessment
  • Nepal


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