At a time when uncertainty looms large over completion of the academic year at all tiers of education, the publication of results of the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examinations brings some welcome relief. Although the celebration of success and exuberance expressed by top grade achievers on their respective campuses were sorely missed on account of the pandemic, they shared their joy and happiness with members of families -many of them with classmates and others over cell phones or on social media. They have the added reason for doing so because of their highest pass rate in four years and an increase of 28.7 per cent in GPA-5 (grade point average) achievement over the previous year. The pass rates saw a drastic decline to 80.35 per cent and 77.77 per cent for two consecutive years after the scaling of the peak at 88.29 per cent in 2016. Happily that trend seems to have been reversed with 82.20 per cent in 2019 and 82.87 this year.
So, the message is clear: every time a batch of examinees is subjected to a new system of examination, change in formats of question papers or lax or strict evaluation of answer scripts, it invariably tells on their performances, rather negatively. But once both teachers and students become familiar with the new system or changes, the examinees prove they are up to the challenge. The drastic fall in percentage of pass in 2018 was mostly because policymakers in the education sector suddenly instructed examiners to be stricter while evaluating answer scripts and the opposite was the instruction in 2016. Have not the authorities of the education sector experimented too often and too much with the learners starting from primary to higher secondary levels over the past three decades? It is time they ceased to continue further experimentation with them like guinea pigs.
The new experimentation students at these levels are likely to be subjected to concerns abolition of GPA-5 and introduction of GPA-4 in its place. A section of educationists argues that the wide spread of marks between 80 and 100 in the top category GPA-5 does injustice to those scoring 90 or 90+ on an average. Sure enough, there is logic in the argument. But this or similar yardsticks of merit judgment cannot be the deciding factor for a shift from GPA-5 to GPA-4. The Qudrat-e-Khuda Education Commission served a strong basis for education reform. This was never done with meticulous study of the weaknesses of the present education system which seeks to prepare students technically to score high marks in examination instead of acquiring the requisite knowledge.
Naturally, successful students are jubilant but their jubilation is likely to be dampened by the news that their admission process cannot get started soon because of the pandemic. Also their seniors, Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) examinees are waiting for their appearance in the final examinations. If their examinations -which were scheduled for April last -cannot be completed within this academic year, the session jam will be of an unprecedented order in independent Bangladesh. This happened during the Liberation War and students lost an entire academic year in the process. Instead of subjecting students to further experimentation, it would be wise to find a way out of the session jam staring in young learners' faces.