Earlier this month, the government announced plans to make sweeping changes in the national school curriculum by 2025, including the scrapping of all exams up to class 3 and no public exams before class 10. Instead of exams, students will be graded based on continuous assessment until class 3, with annual exams starting from class 4. The Primary Education Completion and Junior School Certificate examinations would no longer exist in their current iteration.
Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni presented the National Curricula Framework following the approval of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The education minister disclosed that students of classes 1, 2, 6 and 7 will get new books based on the new curriculum in January 2023, while students of classes 3, 4, 8 and 9 will get their new books in 2024. Students of other classes will get new books in 2025.
Under the new framework, students will not be divided by subject upon entering the secondary level. Instead, all students will study the same 10 subjects from class 6-10, before being able to choose from science, humanities, business studies, and other streams of education from class 11. Dipu Moni said the name and grading system of the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) may also change, and the exams themselves will be based only on the syllabus of class 10, instead of classes 9 and 10, from 2023 in line with the revised curriculum.
Furthermore, the HSC final results may be assessed by averaging the results of finals exams in class 11 and 12. The misuse or overuse of exams has been a persistent criticism of our education system for years now. To that extent, the new framework’s move away from the exam-based paradigm is a welcome move. However, its worthiness will depend on how well it makes use of exams in partnership with other assessment tasks such as presentations, research reports, creative responses, essays, reflective journals etc. Arguing that exams cannot do everything however is not the same as arguing they can do nothing. In nearly all school and university courses there are multiple goals, and therefore a balanced assessment program is critical.
The usefulness of exams as an assessment tool unsurprisingly came to the forefront in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, as most students had to be assessed at the end of their academic year in 2020 on the basis of their performances over the previous year, with schools unable to hold end of year exams. That underlines the importance of the quality of their teachers, and while the new education framework is a welcome step, the authorities in Bangladesh must also come up with ways to improve the quality of teaching in our schools. Students after all, can hardly be expected to rise above the quality of their teachers.