Framing a national examination policy

Dhaka,  Thu,  24 August 2017
Published : 05 Aug 2017, 12:25:55
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Framing a national examination policy

Framing a national examination policy
Prof. Quazi Faruque Ahmed
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently made a policy statement as to the goal and purpose of examination while receiving the results on HSC and equivalent examinations on July 23 last. She said that her government attached topmost priority to achievement of quality education so that the young learners can keep pace with the international standard. About the pass percentage in the HSC and equivalent exams, she maintained that attainment of competence is important on the part of the students to grow up as human resources. It is more important than qualifying in the assessment process.

Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid who took the pains to explain the lapses in the performance of students in HSC exams this year while formally announcing the results to the press at the conference room of his ministry, tried to draw the people's attention to the government initiatives to improve the results and the steps taken for reform in the examination system. He claimed to have brought discipline in the system and said that results now are being published within 60 days of the exams. There were complaints of negligence in examining the answer scripts by examiners and head examiners in the past. The minister said that checking question leaks again was a gigantic task which has been achieved through the joint efforts of the administration, educational institution management and the law enforcing agencies. He tried to console examinees who failed this year saying that such a failure once should not dishearten the young learners. They can appear in the exam next time and achieve desired success.

Prof. Dr. Syed Anwar Hossain of Dhaka University's history department, however, in an interview with a national daily contradicted the views expressed by the education minister about the newly-adopted assessment system in examining the answer scripts. Terming it faulty, he has said that this is unprecedented and followed nowhere in world. Prof. Anwar is also a critic of some provisions of the Education Policy 2010 and is of the view that it is not a policy, rather compilation of recommendations, one of which violates Article 17 of the Constitution.

To me three basic questions, in particular, are very much pertinent in regard to our public examination system. First comes the extent of a student's learning from the teacher in the class room.  Is that properly reflected in the existing public examination? Secondly, why and how does a student fare badly in the public examination after attending classes regularly? Thirdly, why cannot a student who is performing well in the internal examination of the institution, maintain it in the public examination? Who is responsible for this? Is he/she alone responsible for it or the institution he/she belongs to? Does the problem lie with the examination system itself?

This scribe is personally convinced that our existing examination system, particularly public examination, has become redundant. The government has tried to address the chronic problem. But those steps are not found effective nor adequate and consistent. Dropout and proxy exam, question leaks in collusion with a section of 'teachers', their complicity in cheating in exams, setting questions from guide books etc. are there in addition to commercial coaching and private tuition, exorbitant examination fees charged by the institutions and the concerned education boards and National University. All these have made the system unworkable. I earnestly believe that the problems should be looked into thoroughly, since the deviations have been continuing for years together and those are not isolated events.

A comprehensive National Examination Policy is the appropriate answer to the deep-rooted malaise. My proposition is that a well-thought-out national policy on examination should cover public examinations like SSC and HSC along with Public Service Commission examination, admission test at public universities etc. To meet that end, review of all the education policy recommendations ranging from the British era to the present day Bangladesh context with emphasis on the 1974 Qudrat-E-Khuda report, suggestions and recommendations from the stakeholders, including educators, learners and guardians, forward-looking ideas from all concerned, including the policy makers, need to be taken into account and coordinated.

The teaching method and the learning system need to undergo progressive changes in line with the policy statement made by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on examination, as stated in the beginning of this article. A national level examination policy should include acquisition of knowledge and development of necessary skills of the learners. The following recommendations are made here with that end in view: 1. Change in the existing pattern of questions to help students not to take note or memorise. 2. Lessen/reduce the duration of examination hours to two, replacing three hours. 3. Explore feasibility of an open-book examination system. 4. Establishment of laboratories at the upazila level funded by the government to ensure practical classes for science students. 5. Decentralisation of the existing public examination by holding at least two large-scale exams like SSC and HSC at the district level in lieu of the present education board management.

Since examination is supposed to reflect the knowledge acquired by the learners, it should not be limited within the boundaries of technical and infrastructural mechanism of the assessment procedures. We have to adopt and enrich ourselves with the experiences from other parts of the world as we now live in a global village, which is interlinked and not isolated. We need not follow anyone blindly but adapt to changes which suit our needs.

We also should get prepared for making interim changes before we can formulate a comprehensive national examination policy. We need to consider the factors which led to the poor performance of the examinees this year in HSC exam. The factors include absence of grace marks, introduction of a new system in evaluation of answer scripts, setting the English first paper questions in conformity with the new curriculum, students' weakness in English, Mathematics and Science along with dearth of skilled and qualified teachers for those subjects, lack of proper training for teachers on creative questions and, above all, students' incapacity to get used to the new system.

We have seen many reactive steps and ad-hoc decisions on assessing the students' performance through the existing public examination system. Now it is high time to sow the seed of far-reaching accomplishments. For that, we need to review and reassess the existing system. A comprehensive national examination policy only can provide a befitting answer to the question now popping up in every mind.

Prof. Quazi Faruque Ahmed is a member of the National Education Policy and Chairman of the Initiative for Human Development (IHD).

Email: profqfahmed@gmail.com
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