More than one crore students of class 6-9 will be promoted to next classes this year without any annual examinations, the government announced yesterday.
"There will be no annual exams for them. There will be no results, no grading …" Education Minister Dipu Moni declared at a virtual press briefing, adding that the decision was made taking the current coronavirus situation into consideration.
Replying to a query, she also hinted that schools and madrasas might not reopen next month.
The announcement comes when students and guardians all across the country are in confusion about promotion to next classes as schools and madrasas have remained shut for more than seven months amid the pandemic. The government has already announced that the closure was extended until October 31.
Recently, the government said this year's Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and equivalent exams were cancelled to stem Covid-19 transmission.
At the briefing, Dipu Moni said the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) had already prepared a brief syllabus for the class VI-IX students in schools and madrasas so that they could achieve the minimum learning outcome.
Assignments would be given to the pupils every week to identify their learning shortcomings. "The assessment method will help us understand the weaknesses of the students and address them. The assessment will not have any impact on their promotion to next classes," she said.
Students will be able to get and submit the assignments to their teachers online or in person, following proper health guidelines. The class work will also be handed through TV and will be available on educational websites.
The short syllabus will be covered in 30 work days in November and December, she said.
Asked about the assignments, NCTB Chairman Prof Narayan Chandra Saha said students would have to answer questions based on what they learn in a particular week. "The Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education will upload information on the assignment method on its website soon," he said.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Education and Statistics (BANBEIS), there are about 1.05 crore students in class VI-IX across the country. Of them, about 87.32 lakh are in schools and the rest in madrasas.
According to the academic calendar, their annual exams were scheduled to be held between November 28 and December 10.
Sources said the authorities were yet to decide on the annual tests of the primary (I-V) and class X students as well as this year's Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and its equivalent exams.
The government's decision on not taking the annual exams has triggered a mixed reaction among parents and educationists.
Professor Emeritus of Brac University Manzoor Ahmed, also founder-director of the same university's Institute of Educational Development; Rasheda K Choudhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education; and Prof Mazharul Hannan, president of Bangladesh Principals' Association, praised the decision, given the Covid-19 situation.
Manzoor was, however, skeptical about the skills and motivation of the teachers regarding handing and evaluating the assignments and identifying the learning shortcomings. "The government should introduce a guideline for them [teachers]," he said.
Rasheda said reaching out to all students would be a challenge. "Teachers should always be in touch with students and guide them accordingly," she said.
She also said students should continue studying no matter what as they have the books in hand. In this regard, monitoring by their guardians will be crucial, she opined.
Former director of Dhaka University's Institute of Education and Research (IER) Prof Siddiqur Rahman, however, was not so pleased with the government decision.
"The students will be promoted with an incomplete syllabus. It will create trouble for them in the next grades," he said, adding that they would face difficulties especially in subjects like mathematics, science and English.
Abdullah Al Mamun, guardian of a student in a school in the capital's Malibagh, lauded the decision. "It is a positive decision. At this time it does not matter whether exams take place or not. The focus should be on the learning."
Ali Kawser, a guardian from Dhanmondi, said students study more during the final exams when many of them try to cover the entire syllabus. "This will not happen this time."
At the briefing yesterday, Dipu Moni said students who have access to TV and online education would be able to complete the syllabus. Others will face some hurdles in doing so.
"We will have special classes for students who've lagged behind," she added.
SCHOOLS MIGHT NOT REOPEN IN NOVEMBER
Asked whether the educational institutions would reopen in November, the minister said, "What do you think? Many countries that reopened their schools are now shutting them again. Besides, many were worried about Covid-19 during the upcoming winter … We will discuss the matter with the National Advisory Committee on Covid-19 and come up with a decision.
"We will think about reopening schools when we see there are little or no health risks for students, teachers and the guardians."
She said it was not possible for anyone to say when the situation would arise.
The closure of schools for over seven months has led to the cancellation of exams and left academic calendars in disarray. Educational activities of about four crore students are being hampered due to the pandemic.
This year's HSC, its equivalent exams, Primary Education Completion, its equivalent exams, Junior School Certificate and its equivalent exams have been cancelled.
Dipu Moni hoped that the SSC and HSC exams next year would be held as per schedule but added that the final decision would depend on the Covid-19 situation.
She urged students to continue studies under any circumstances.