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    No online exams for SSC, HSC candidates, government mulling other options

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    All educational institutions of the country have been closed since March 18, 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic

    The government is considering different methods to promote this year’s Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) candidates as the chances of holding in-person exams are slowly but surely receding due to the ongoing Covid upsurge.

    Examinees for SSC, HSC and equivalent levels will not be promoted without any evaluation as the authorities this time aim to avoid the “auto pass” method that has been highly criticized by experts.

    The Education Ministry is mulling several options, including assignments, MCQ, or short question-based evaluation for this year’s candidates.

    All schools, colleges and universities in the country have been closed since March 18, 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    This extended closure has propelled the need for and development of online educational activities but only a few were able to adapt to the changes.

    On August 27, 2020, the Cabinet Division directed the authorities concerned to conduct online exams under the ‘National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy 2018’.

    The Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE) and a2i were jointly tasked with implementing the decision.

    Online public exams ‘suicidal’

    However, the authorities have ruled out the possibility of holding public exams online as an Education Ministry committee recently concluded that Bangladeshi schools and colleges do not possess the technical capabilities that are required to hold such large-scale public exams.

    They also lack sufficient funds and other basic facilities, the committee found, adding that these institutions even struggled to conduct their academic activities online during the ongoing Covid-19 forced closure.

    The committee, led by the chairman of the Dhaka Education Board, was tasked to devise a model framework for holding public exams in the times of Covid.

    Following this move, early this June, a report prepared by the committee was sent to the Education Ministry for further evaluation and discussion, Dhaka Education Board Chairman Prof Nehal Ahmed informed media.

    The report warned that it was virtually impossible to bring around 270,000 SSC and around 180,000 HSC examinees under online examination efforts.

    They observed that conducting large-scale public exams online would be a “suicidal” move as over 40 % of the students would not be able to participate in the exams.

    Moreover, the report also suggested that provisions for free internet and other facilities, including financial aids for the educational institutions – especially the ones operating in the remote areas – would help the development of a sustainable online education system.

    There is a shortage of time and skilled manpower for ensuring the right environment for online evaluation, the committee further observed.

    The redesigning of test and assessment methods, online proctoring and monitoring, uninterrupted power and internet supply – are some of the major obstacles that make online public exams a very difficult task to accomplish.

    The alternatives

    Of the various proposals that are being considered right now, evaluating HSC and SSC students based on assignments, short questions, MCQs, and results of previously participated public exams, are being prioritized the most.

    According to the Education Ministry committee, these assignments, short questions, or MCQs will be evaluated by teachers from other institutions of the same education board.

    Students will be evaluated in a total of five to six subjects – including one from their respective streams (science, commerce, or arts) with a shortened syllabus.

    Seeking anonymity, two members of the committee, while talking to this correspondent, said: “We have proposed a number of methods regarding this issue. Any one of them will be finalized following consultations with the national advisory committee.”

    Also seeking anonymity, a member of the national advisory committee, said: “We have received the recommendations made by the committee. We are working on them to finalize a method.

    “But our primary goal is to hold in-person exams provided that the Covid situation in the country normalizes. We have some time on our hands to wait for this and we will.”

    He, however, said that the final decision would be taken following a meeting between the prime minister and the education minister before Eid-ul-Azha.

    Meanwhile, Secondary and Higher Education Division Secretary Md Mahbub Hossain has said that the education authorities still want to hold in-person examinations but only after the country’s coronavirus situation improves

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