"I wish there were no exams in schools," this is what every student wishes during exam season. Their lifelong dream finally came to reality. With the cancellation of exams till class three and the creation of a more interactive learning environment, students in Bangladesh will experience education differently. Even though most students are somewhat happy with the drastic changes in the national curriculum and the cancellation of JSC (Junior School Certificate), parents and teachers have mixed opinions regarding the changes.
Umme Safia, mother of a student of class eight, an experimental officer at Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, shares her opinion, "JSC certificate has no value, hence it's a baseless pressure for the kids. Back in our time, we had scholarship exams, I believe that was better." According to Ms Safia, all students are built differently and the exam mindset might not be developed in everyone. So, she believes scholarship exams is a better solution only for high academic achievers.
However, Kaniz Fatema, mother of Afia Anjum Milky, a student at Mohammadpur Preparatory School and College in class eight, feels otherwise. "JSC would have created competitiveness among the students. Their effort would be validated and students will be inspired to work harder," says Ms Fatema. She believes that a board exam is important to evaluate the students and encourage them to keep pushing their limits. Their foundation will be strong; hence, they can prepare themselves for the real world from a young age. Afia agrees with her mother by saying, "JSC makes the students more serious about studies and now I believe the seriousness will be gone. Hence our foundation will crumble." She mentioned another important point, scholarship. Many students get encouraged by scholarships and get benefitted financially as well. This option is not on the table anymore which concerns students like Afia.
One of the most common concerns of parents is mental pressure. Any exam has been a source of pressure for the students; however, board exams created extra pressure, which puzzled the parents as much as the students. Mothers of two other Preparatorians named Sultana Akter, a boutique shop owner, and Munmun Ahmed, a housewife, represent the parents who are concerned about the mental health of their children. Both mothers think that JSC is a burden for children. Ms Munmun shared her concern, "In class 10, students are mature enough to handle the exam pressure. But class 8 is a tender age and it's not logical to make them suffer with the pressure of A+ or Golden A+." In their time, JSC or PEC was not taken; this did not make them learn lesser topics," shares Ms Munmun.
Sajid Ahmad Ayan Shaheed, a student of class eight from Police Smrity College shares his concern regarding the absence of experience in appearing the board exam. To solve this issue, the author believes that institutions can take final exams more strictly by replicating the board exam ambiance. Providing longer registration and roll number, tying up extra loose paper instead of stapling it, etc. measures can be taken by the institutions to get students used to board exams. Ayan has also told, "All the coaching centres and most parents are obsessed with A+. At least we will get relief from that at such a young age." A lot of students feel the same way as Ayan regarding the mental pressure of JSC. Where is the harm if the students feel free due to the absence of JSC?"
Dr Shoeb Bin Islam, an assistant scientist at ICDDR,B, supports the cancellation of JSC. He thinks that the exam begets too much pressure on young minds. Since the certificate has no apparent value, this pressure is unnecessary. Upon asking his opinion about the curriculum change where current class seven students will not have groups (business, science or humanities group) in class 9-10, Dr Shoeb shared his neutral opinion, "There are two sides to every coin. The students will get more time to decide what they want to be in the future and pick their group accordingly. A downside is the pressure of having too many topics to learn." Even though he believes that the students will get wider knowledge, he also acknowledges that all students absorb information differently. So, this can be a blessing and a curse at the same time.
Sarmin Akter, a Bangala teacher of Mohammadpur Preparatory School and College (girls' wing) in Dhaka, said. "Even if the new curriculum sounds like a splendid idea, I believe it will be tough to execute in a room of 50 students." By engaging in acting, field trips, and other activities, education will be more interactive and practical. The government is planning to email Excel sheets to institutions all over the country to track the academic records of the students. These feel like an overambitious idea at best given the lack of IT-related knowledge/resources in the farthest corner of the country. "Since our students are used to learning through exams, this sudden shift will be a lot for them to adapt to. We as teachers will try to keep them on track." Hence, according to Ms Sarmin, ensuring proper infrastructure along with mindset is necessary.
"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid," said Albert Einstein. If the reformation of the education system can create an opportunity for all types of students then no one will think that they are stupid. Education should be about including frontbenchers and backbenchers, if the new system can ensure this then inclusivity will be practised. However, since the cancellation of JSC can reduce the stress of the students at a such young age, we can see this as a win.
The writer studies BBA in Finance and Banking at Jahangirnagar University.