To reiterate what I started part I with:

It’s NOT just that the education system in Nepal is, by all accounts, the most corrupt system in the country. It’s NOT just that it’s so pathetically and horrendously of poor quality and therefore fails to meet the academic needs of a majority of the children of the country.

Nepali education system actually sets students up for failure by putting them through a wringer. Having ensured their failure, when they do fail, they blame them for it, and, to round it off, makes them pay for the rest of their lives for it. Forget educating them in a way that prepares them for life, in a way that puts them on a path to realizing their human potential.

Following that, in part I, I evaluated and identified the issues with and solutions to the format and structure of grade 12 chemistry examination paper on the whole. In this one, I shall be shredding its contents to demonstrate, again, how Nepali education system fails our students.

To make them stand out, bits from the paper appear in italics within boxes. They are then followed by my own commentary including alternative wordings for the question where necessary. (Click here and here for images of the the original test paper.)

Q1. What is the mode of hybridization of B in BF3? Write any two important features of this hybridization.

“What is the mode of…”?! Give me a break! Here’s a simple and straightforward alternative: Identify the hybridization B undergoes in BF3.

And “any two important features…”?!?! What does that even mean?! I mean, what counts as “important”? The following would have been a straight forward alternative: Identify [or State] the shape of the molecule and the bond angle(s).

Assuming the two questions are worth a mark each, mark allocation for the second part of the question is off. When two things are asked for, they should each be worth a mark, and therefore the question should be worth 3 marks total. I am assuming that 0.5 mark is NOT awarded (which, incidentally, they shouldn’t) for getting one of the two features right.

And that demonstrate a general issue with Nepali examination papers: penalizing instead of rewarding, consistent with our punitive Nepali culture. A student will not be rewarded for the knowledge they DO have about the molecule, for getting one of the two correct, because it’s worth only 1 mark.

Q2. Distinguish between end point and equivalence point of reaction.

Here’s a better alternative: Identify two differences between end-point and equivalence point in a titration. Two because it’s worth only 2 marks. If the expectation is that students write a paragraph for this (because of the word “Distinguish”), then again that’s a major issue with this question given that it’s only worth 2 marks! They’ll likely be penalized for not knowing all of them or most of them.

Q3. What is meant by single electrode potential? How is it measured?

“What is meant by…” is one of the many ridiculous Nepanglish wordings in questions! Here’s a simple and direct alternative: Define single electrode potential. Describe how it is measured.

I don’t know why they don’t just replace “What is meant by…” with “Define.” It’s NOT like they don’t use “Define” at all. They do…as a matter of fact later in this very paper!

Mark allocation is another issue with this question. The definition of a single electrode potential is worth more than 1 mark simply because single electrode potential consists of more than just one element. Description of its measurement also requires more than a sentence and yet it’s worth just 1 mark!

Q4. Define enthalpy of formation giving an example of it.

Alternative? Define enthalpy of formation. Give an example.

I must however add that asking for an example of enthalpy of formation does NOT make any sense. I don’t know how I would answer that. Are the examinees meant to quote the value of the enthalpy of formation for a substance?

Q5. Give the balanced chemical reaction for the preparation of black oxide from blue vitriol. How is black oxide converted into red oxide?

“Black oxide”, “blue vitriol,” “red oxide”?! Are you serious?! These are archaic and obsolete common names of chemical substances!

The practice in chemistry education, for quite some time, has been to use systematic names of chemicals. The fact that, in Nepal, we continue to use common names tells me two things:

  1. how really old the syllabus is, and
  2. how they have NEVER revised and updated it!

While on the subject, over the last several decades, new branches of chemistry have evolved, such as nanotechnology. And guess what? That is NOT part of the syllabus either. Just to contrast it with the curriculum I have taught as an international science teacher, International Baccalaureate is revised and updated every four years.

Here’s an alternative: Give a balanced equation for the preparation of iron(II,III) oxide from copper (II) sulfate. Incidentally, I didn’t know what those names stood for and had to look them up…and I have taught grades 11 and 12 Chemistry for years.

Why would you require student to learn such names of chemicals most students their age around the world, apart from those who studied with themselves, are likely to NOT recognize?! Of course, to put them through a wringer!

As for the second question, I don’t even understand what it means — converted industrially or in the lab?

Furthermore, the question is definitely worth more than 2 marks! The balanced equation should be worth AT LEAST 2 marks — 1 for the formula of the chemicals and their physical states and 1 for balancing. The second one should also be worth at least 2 marks too, regardless of the one they are asking for!

Q6. What is Williamson’s esterification reaction?

Not sure what the question is really asking partly also because it is worth ONLY 2 marks!! So I’m at a loss for an alternative. Why “Williamson’s”? Just “What is an esterification reaction?” is a legitimate question.

Q7. A primary haloalkane (X), if allowed to react with KCN yields a compound (Y), which on acidic hydrolysis gave propanoic acid. Identify (X) and (Y).

I would have just provided an equation showing the sequence of the reactants and products and would have followed it up with “Identity (X) and (Y)” the way they did.

Group ‘B’

Attempt any two questions.
Q8. Are all standard solutions, primary standard solutions or not? Give reason. 1 g of a divalent metal was dissolved in 25 ml of 2N H2SO4 (f=1.01). The excess acid required 15.1 ml of 1N NaOH (f=0.8) for complete neutralization. Find the atomic weight of the metal.

To begin with, I fail to see how this (and the rest of the) Group “B” questions are QUALITATIVELY different from Group “A”.

The first part of the question is basically assessing their knowledge of standard solution, primary standard solution, and their distinction. A clear and simple way to assess that would have been to ask: All standard solutions are primary standard solution. True or false? Justify. That’s it!

This alone DEFINITELY should be worth AT LEAST 2 marks, which the mark allocation does NOT make clear, which is yet another issue. While in Group A, one could assume a mark each for the “two-part” questions, here one can’t readily figure out the breakdown.

As for the second part…I must confess I don’t know what f stands for. That may just be a result of not teaching the subject for the last seven years! Additionally, no different from common names of chemical substances, N (Normality) is NOT used much in chemistry anymore. Molarity is the concept to use when talking about concentration of solutions!

As for the mark allocation, this part of the question is quite involved and therefore definitely worth more than just the remaining 3 marks! There are a couple of concepts involved (2 marks) and a whole calculation (which generally is worth more than 1 mark, unless it’s a single operation)!

Q9. What is meant by enthalpy of formation? Calculate the enthalpy of formation of ethane at 298K, in the enthalpies of combustion of C, H and C2H6 are -94.14, -68.47 and – 373.3 KCal respectively.

Again that horrible horrible wording: “What is meant by…”!! Here’s a simple alternative: Define enthalpy of formation. This should be worth at least 2 marks.

As for the second part of the question, while the wording is ok, it should have been worth AT LEAST 4 marks instead of the remaining 3 because it involves

  1. recalling three chemical equations,
  2. relating them to each other in a combustion cycle,
  3. deriving a mathematical equation relating the three combustion equations to one another, and, finally,
  4. calculating the required value.

Additionally, another evidence for the fact that the chemistry syllabus has NOT undergone revision: the use of the unit KCal! In all the years I taught chemistry abroad starting in 1994, I don’t remember us using that unit for energy at all. We used kJ instead!

Q10. An Organic Compound (A) reacts with PBr3 to give (B). Compound B produces (C) when heated with alc. KOH. The compound (C) undergoes ozonolysis [sic] to yield ethanal and methanal as major products. The compound A responses [sic] to iodoform test. Identify A, B, C, and write reactions involved. How is (A) obtained from CH3MgBr?

Just for ease of interpretation, I would have set the question out as a a series of chemical equations.

Group ‘C’

Attempt any one question.
Q11. Give a suitable chemical reaction for the laboratory preparation of trichloromethane. What happens when the tribchilromethane reacts with i) Phenol ii) Nitric acid iii) Silver powder iv) Atmospheric air

To begin with, again, I fail to see how this (and the other) Group “C” question is QUALITATIVELY different from those in the other two groups!

The first part of the question is all right. But “What happens…”?! “What happens” in terms of what is observed? “What happens” in terms of the chemical reaction that takes place? Or both? It’s not clear what the question is asking. Or, maybe, it’s asking for both!

If indeed both, a better alternative would have been this: Describe the observations [or Identify one observation] and provide a balanced chemical equation for when trichloromethane reacts with each of the following chemicals.

If my alternative were a correct representation of the second part of the question, then it alone would be worth a MINIMUM of 12 marks, 3 for each reaction. Allotting AT LEAST 2 marks for the first part of the question, this question would be worth a total of 14 marks instead of just 10.

Q12. Define the terms (i) activation energy (ii) order of reaction (iii) molecularity of reaction (iv) effective collision (v) rate law equation. Why does power sugar dissolve faster than grain sugar? The following data were obtained for a hypothetical reaction x + y —–> z 

Expt [x]mol L-1 [y]mol L-1 Formation of z mol L-1S-1
1 0.20 0.20 3×10-3
2 0.40 0.20 1.2x-2
3 0.60 0.40 6x-3
4 0.80 0.20 9x-3

The first part of the question is fine but the second part is missing from the image.

So, to summarize, the many MANY issues with the grade 12 examinations and the chemistry paper in particular. That they held it during a pandemic is a strike against it to begin with. The papers followed a format that students hadn’t seen. That’s another strike.

As I am sure you noted just from part I (if you have read it) and above, the chemistry paper is just a compendium of mistakes. Little thought appears to have gone into the format and structure of the paper. The questions in the three groups aren’t qualitatively different. The time allotted, the total marks its worth, and it consisting of 8 questions the student must attempt are all major issues. The paper is definitely worth more than 30 marks, for instance, but how much depends on the combination of the 8 questions.

There are other hidden issues too, issues that aren’t so flagrant as the ones I have pointed about above. Such as the issues of there being choices in every group. Another is that the syllabus does NOT appear to consist of foundational knowledge, understanding, and skills that ALL the students must acquire or master during the course of the year.

Staying on the topic of the syllabus, firstly, that it still requires students to learn common names of chemical substances indicates to me that it has NOT been revised and updated at all since it was first designed. Secondly, I also happen to know that it does NOT include any new topics that have evolved over the last few decades (for example Nanotechnology). What that says to me is that, in designing the syllabus, consideration of the relevance — to the world of the students and their lives — of what the students are taught appears to have been naught.

Another major issue with these kinds of examination papers I have seen again and again is that they are more about testing what the students don’t know, get wrong, and penalizing them for those mistakes than what examinations are supposed to be all about: assessing their knowledge, understanding, and skills, AND rewarding them for demonstrating what they know and get right.

The paper contained questions worth just 1 mark but they required the demonstration of knowledge of or understanding about more than one concept or single process etc. If they don’t demonstrate knowledge & understanding of ALL of them, they don’t get the mark! If they for instance miss the simplest of the concept or make a mistake in the simplest of the operations, they don’t get the mark. Worse still, there are questions of different grades — of different levels of difficulties — but ALL worth the same 1 mark!

And, finally, the English in this, as in pretty much all papers I have seen (and textbooks), is pretty embarrassing and cringe-worthy.

Apart from that, there are no questions assessing higher level thinking skills. The second part of question 12 would have likely involved analysis, and that’s it. I don’t see any question that assess application, evaluation, or synthesis. In other words, the paper assess mostly recall — the most basic of thinking skills — and some understanding.

All to put the students through a wringer really.

What do you think?


(If interested in a blog post about issues with English language in the Nepali education system, with Nepanglish, click here. If interested in an analysis of practice questions in a grade 11-12 guide book, click here. In interested in a blog post about how Nepali education system teaches children to NOT think, click here. If interested in one of the ways Nepali college students are made to memorize stock questions and their answers, click hereClick here for another way young Nepali students memorize questions and their answers.)

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