There are some similarities and a lot of differences between the education systems in Nepal and the U.S. For instance, we have 3-year as well as 4-year bachelor’s programs in Nepal. In the U.S., however, bachelor’s programs are no shorter than four years. Therefore, it is important to understand the education system in the U.S. and to know where you fit in.
In Nepal, our education system uses ‘board exams,’ where students take the same set of exams administered by an educational or university board. In Nepal, we have the SLC board exam which is taken at the end of grade ten. Known as the ‘iron gate’, a lot of importance is given to the SLC. After SLC, students typically join a Plus Two, A-Levels, PCL or Intermediate Level program.
By contrast, the high school in the U.S. is grades nine through twelve. Furthermore, each school is autonomous and students do not take board exams in the U.S. In general, a student who has successfully completed Plus Two, A-Levels, PCL, Intermediate Level, or a similar program, can be compared with a high school graduate from the U.S. system.
We used to have a 2-year bachelor’s program in Nepal. We now have many 3-year bachelor’s programs, 4-year bachelor’s programs, and some programs which are even longer in duration. In contrast, bachelor’s programs in the U.S. are no shorter than four years and are one form of ‘Undergraduate’ programs. Students who have completed twelve years of education are eligible to join undergraduate programs in the U.S. There is a name given to each of the four years of bachelor’s study – namely freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years.
There exists another form of undergraduate education in the U.S., which is the associate’s degree. An associate’s degree is a 2-year degree earned at a community college. Community colleges usually serve a small community around them. Per year college tuition is usually much less expensive than per year tuition at a 4-year college. Students who opt for an associate’s degree may choose upon completion to transfer to a 4-year college/university in the U.S. to continue studies for a bachelor’s degree.
Hence, students seeking bachelor’s degrees in the U.S. have two options. They can either directly join a 4-year bachelor’s program, or study at a community college and then transfer to a 4-year bachelor’s program. Students should carefully evaluate these two options. You may find that studying at a community college is less expensive, but then it is generally difficult to obtain scholarships when you transfer to the 4-year institution. Furthermore, community colleges may not have housing and students might have to live off-campus.
We have M.Phil and Post Graduate degrees in Nepal that do not exist in the U.S. Both master’s and Ph.D. level studies are referred to as ‘Graduate’ studies in the U.S. A master’s degree is usually earned after two years of study beyond a 4-year bachelor’s program and a Ph.D. degree takes somewhere between four to eight years.