The government is considering cancelling this year's Primary Education Completion, Junior School Certificate and equivalent exams due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The primary and mass education ministry and the education ministry are set to send proposals to the Prime Minister's Office to cancel this year's Primary Education Completion and Junior School Certificate and equivalent exams early next week, two top officials of the ministries told The Daily Star.
If Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approves the proposal, the primary and mass education ministry will cancel this year's PEC and equivalent Ibtedayi Education Completion exam, and the education ministry will cancel JSC and the equivalent Junior Dakhil Certificate exam, they added.
The move came after Primary and Mass Education Senior Secretary Akram-Al-Hossain and Secondary And Higher Education Secretary Mahbub Hossain held a meeting with the principal secretary to the prime minister and other top officials of the PMO earlier this week.
Primary and mass education ministry is preparing the proposal regarding cancellation of PEC and equivalent exams, while the education ministry is doing the same for JSC and equivalent exams, said a secretary who attended the meeting.
PEC and its equivalent exams for fifth-graders, and JSC and its equivalent exams for eighth-graders, are the two largest public examinations and both are scheduled for November.
This year about 3 million students are expected to take the PEC exams and 2.5 million are expected to sit for JSC.
"We are preparing the proposal and will send it to PMO early next week," said Akram.
He said they are working on keeping different alternatives regarding the PEC and other exams.
"But whatever we decide, we will ensure students can achieve grade-based fundamental competence."
Mahbub Hossain said the education ministry is also working with different scenarios in mind.
"NCTB [National Curriculum and Textbook Board], education boards and experts are working on the issue under the supervision of our ministry, but everything will depend on when schools will reopen," he said.
Top officials of both ministries also said if the exams are cancelled this year, they will take a school-based final exam on the syllabus already covered and students will receive scholarships based on their performance in the exam.
The government closed all educational institutions since March 17 to curb the spread of coronavirus. The closure has been extended to August 31 and it is yet uncertain when schools will reopen.
Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) Executive Director Rasheda K Choudhury said that government is on the right track as they are considering cancellation of exams.
"Many students were out of the coverage of online and TV education introduced to minimise the education loss of students, [so] their results could be a debacle," she said.
She proposed that the government evaluate PEC and JSC examinees based on their performances in prior classes.
If the government cancels the exam it will be the first time any public examination will be cancelled since the liberation of Bangladesh, said Prof Mazharul Hannan, teacher union leader since 1972 and now the president of Bangladesh Principals' Association.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Examination Development Unit (BEDU) had earlier this month sent a set of proposals regarding JSC exams to the Dhaka education board, which was forwarded to the education ministry.
It proposed cutting the JSC syllabus and placing priority on ensuring minimum basic competencies of students if schools reopen in September.
If schools do not reopen by October, it suggested that exams of 50 marks be held with multiple choice questions, and recommended that no exams be held if schools do not reopen at all this year. In that case, BEDU said important lessons of this year should be adjusted with the next classes' syllabus.
The National Academy of Primary Education (NAPE) was meanwhile working to cut the syllabus after assessing how many classes students can have if their schools reopen in September or November.
"Exams will be held based on the syllabus already covered. If we do not get any time to hold classes, we may cut exam marks [currently 100 for each subject]," NAPE Director General Shah Alam said.
Holding this year's Higher Secondary Certificate and its equivalent exams has been deferred for an indefinite period. The exams were scheduled to start on April 1. More than one million students are expected to take the exams.
Dhaka education board secretary Tapan Kumar Sarkar said they are preparing to hold the HSC exams maintaining health protocols as soon as possible. "We are planning that one student will sit on one bench, for that we will need to increase the number of exam centres."