Alternative to SSC and HSC elective-subject examinations

Alternative to SSC and HSC elective-subject examinations

The country's education system has prioritised public examinations, particularly the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) including their equivalents, because the performances at these levels mainly decide the future of students. Although, two other public examinations ---primary school ending for class V students and junior school certificate for class VIII ---have been introduced for some years, they are hardly of much importance. No wonder that educationists have either not recommended or directly opposed these extra and needless public examinations.

Now that the schools and colleges have remained closed since March last year, all quarters involved with education ---in which students have the greatest stake ---are seriously concerned about the uncertainty over holding the two most important public examinations. On Monday last the controller of examinations of the Dhaka Education Board reiterated the official stand that the SSC and HSC examinations would be held in November and December. But examinees will not be required to sit for all the papers' examinations, not even the compulsory subjects like Bangla, English, Mathematics. Examinations will be held in three elective subjects only from each group---science, commerce and humanities. No examination will be required for optional elective subject known as fourth paper. Earlier on July 15, Education Minister Dipu Moni first made an announcement to this effect. However, she was cautious to mention that the examinations would be held provided the situation permitted.

Already the syllabi have been shortened and the examinations will be held on curtailed syllabi of those three elective papers from each group. Can such an examination do justice to students' merit evaluation? Anyone can see it cannot. When Mathematics at the SSC level is skipped, the decision cannot be sound at all. Assignments and subject mapping of JSC may produce results contrary to a student's learning at this level. If examinations in three elective subjects can be held maintaining health protocols, there is no reason why mathematics examination at the SSC level cannot be included. The subject surely deserves consideration for inclusion by all means, if its importance is considered particularly for the humanities group. Mathematics, science and commerce subjects need closer teaching guidance but comprehension of other subjects is possible if students study those attentively. Weakness in mathematics mars development of logical approach to any other subject. Even it is essential for appreciation of music, literature and art.  There is a wide difference between the two batches of SSC and HSC examinees of the current year and those of the 2020. At least the batches of the past year completed their academic courses and that of the SSC could even appear for their examinations before closure of educational institutions on account of coronavirus. The HSC examinees missed the examinations by just a month. This means they had to be fully prepared for the exams by that time.  Unlike these two batches, this year's examinees had no opportunity for in-person classes and there is doubt about their level of learning. Unless students had highly qualified tutors or teachers to teach them lesson by lesson, their education in the respective classes has remained incomplete. Text books and syllabi are prepared in consideration of capability of grasping the contents step by step depending on learners' age groups. Well, there are both prodigies and laggards and no syllabus can ever fit them. Standard syllabi are introduced for general students and they may warrant changes depending on the demand of the time. For example, digital technology has transformed the perspective in more ways than one. So inclusion of information and communication technology has become mandatory.

The authorities here have missed chances earlier for opening schools and colleges when the villages were almost totally free from the pandemic and the cases also dropped significantly. But the second wave has upset everything now with cases reported more from villages and border areas. If the situation does not improve, schools and colleges cannot be opened. It seems the education ministry's earlier plan for holding classes for 60 days for SSC examinees and 70 days for HSC examinees is doomed unless there is a dramatic drop in coronavirus cases and deaths, which currently looks unlikely.

So, even if the examinations for three elective subjects can be held, they will not be more than examination for examination's sake. However much the authorities may argue that this will create no hindrance for admission to higher education, there is hardly any reason to be convinced of the argument. These and the batches following them will have serious weakness and in higher studies their weakness in comprehension will be exposed.

Under the circumstances, students from primary to class XII look fated to be a lost generation. To avoid such a consequence and make up for as much losses as they suffered, it would be wise to defer their examinations no matter if it means loss of an academic year. This happened in 1971 on account of the Liberation War. By this time, the vaccination campaign must be stepped up in order to reach herd immunity. Then a crash education programme should be launched where more qualified teachers have to be recruited for teaching and tutoring students in smaller groups. Preferably, three-month intense teaching under the programme can mostly make up for the lost time. This will call for special training for teachers and allocation of many times more funds than has been done.     

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