Disquieting message from HSC results  

Nilratan Halder     | Published: July 26, 2018 22:17:22 | Updated: July 27, 2018 22:06:00

When the education minister claimed that it did not matter 'to us' if the trend of results looked positive or negative because the emphasis was on raising the standard of education, the claim was clearly off target. Again, he stated, "We have published what the real result is". He then elaborated that this time teachers were asked not to increase or decrease marks. The answer scripts were evaluated properly and the evaluation method too was strictly followed.

Reading between the lines, one can legitimately raise a few pertinent questions that beg answers from the minister. If it is of no concern now how the trend of results looks, previously it surely did. There is a tacit admission that previously the standard of education was more than compromised when examiners were encouraged to evaluate exam scripts liberally so much so that even teachers refusing to dole out marks were reprimanded. It was the time when pass rates and the number of top grade achievers got an explosive start both in the SSC and HSC exams beginning in 2008, the year the Awami League government came to power. Beginning with the pass rate of 74.85 per cent in HSC exam in 2008, it peaked to 76.5 in 2012 and did not come down below 70 per cent until 2015 in which year the pass rate dropped to 65.84. 

One cannot be blamed for finding political decision behind the sudden fluctuation of fortunes for certain batches of the two vital public examinations. If not anything else, this is gross discrimination against some batches of examinations and favour to others. When the number of total examinees in the range of 1.2 to 1.5 million is taken into account, such discriminatory treatment of any section of citizens -- least of all the most promising one -- brings no good to the country.

One understands if curricula changes with addition or deduction of subjects or books and examination reforms are brought about in order to raise the quality of education. But whoever has ever heard anywhere in the world that examiners are advised to liberally gift marks and then to be strict? That examiners must check exam scripts meticulously and mark those properly is the unwritten law. It is totally independent of any advice from the top.

Why does the minister consider the 75 per cent or any rate above 70 per cent higher or in his words 'positive' trend and 65 per cent negative trend? Ideally, no examinee should fail. He should better have a look at the A-level pass rates which are at their lowest 93 per cent and at their highest 97 per cent in recent times. No education minister in the United Kingdom will go public to declare that they have published real results. If there are results that are real, the connotation is that there are unreal or should we say 'fake' results too? By inference then it points to the years between 2008 and 2014 when unreal results were published.

Yes, the curricula and examination system for the A-level education have been reformed but at no point the issue of evaluation -- proper or improper -- came to the fore. Why the education committee's recommendation was ignored and two more unnecessary public examinations before the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exam imposed on young learners has no plausible answer. In the face of opposition from some committee members and educationists, at some point an impression was given that the primary school ending and Junior School Certificate (JSC) exams would be abolished. But those are retained without an explanation.

The authorities seem to be good at putting the cart before the horse. When the system of multiple choice question (MCQ) and structured questions was introduced, neither teachers nor students had been adequately familiarised with it. It so happened that teachers themselves failed to appreciate the structured questions and could not prepare question papers for examinations. The latest news is that the MCQ may be dispensed with from the next year.   Experiments with education are carried everywhere but only the most competent people are assigned to the job, so that the authorities are not required to make a 180? U-turn.

A serious matter, education deserves closer attention and better judgment for its structural reform, curricula change with diversification of subjects keeping with the demand of the time. There is no point producing an army of unemployed young graduates. When a career is in question, innovative thought is required for the increasing number of job-seekers. Wielders from Bangladesh employed abroad know the job well but they have no certificate to recommend them. There are other technical jobs where workers from Bangladesh face similar difficulties. Neighbouring India has entered into agreements with many such international bodies in order to approve their technical institutes as members. Now a certificate holder from one such institute is internationally recognised as a wielder or other professional.

Similar measures at the lower level can improve the status and financial benefits of workers abroad. But those going beyond the junior or mid level will have to compete with the very best students in the world. The current system does not quite help them. From class IX, students should have the option for major and optional subjects. Why should students have to sit SSC or HSC examinations for 1,300 marks? If optional subjects are many, students may be given the liberty of opting for the minimum in order to reduce the burden. It would be better for them if they concentrate on their majors and excel in those. So the need is to make education enjoyable to students. But to make it so, the number one priority is to train and appoint qualified teachers. 


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