Over the past decade, the high pass rates and GPA-5 numbers have been steadily criticised. In 2016, a television report showed GPA-5 recipients floundering in answering general knowledge questions.
Social media was in uproar after the video went viral. Criticism was shot back-and-forth over whether the national education system was educational indeed.
The standardised evaluation system essentially streamlines the checking procedure for two subjects – English and Mathematics – both of which saw the highest number of fails.
According to Ministry of Education officials, teachers were provided with a supplementary guideline with the answer scripts for uniform evaluation.
The new guideline also has a provision built in – a committee has been formed with experts from the Ministry of Education and Bangladesh Education Development Unit (BEDU) to re-check the scripts of any examiner.
All examiners were made aware of the fact that their scripts were vulnerable to scrutiny by the panel of experts.
Prof M Kaykobad, prominent academic and a member of BEDU said he has his reservations about whether the government guidelines are the reason behind the drop in pass rates.
“Teachers were given three sample models – standard, simple and weak. It provided them with a definitive range of evaluation to grade the scripts.”
However, Akhtar Hossain, a mathematics teacher at Gazipur Harinal High School, said mathematics teachers received just one model script for use while checking.
Akhtar approved of the new standardised model and hoped it would play a productive role in continuing to provide more accurate evaluation in the future.
Fear of numbers and English
Comilla Education Board Chairman Prof Abdul Khaleque told the Dhaka Tribune that 74,968 failed from his region - 34,989 in Mathematics and 25,606 in English.
“In my board, 21,316 failed, most of them in English and Mathematics. I still do not have the exact numbers,” said Prof Ziaul Huq, chairman of Barisal Education Board.
The polar opposite numbers
It is of note that only 2,266 institutions had the privilege of having every single SSC or equivalent examinee pass. The number plummeted from 4,734 in 2016.
On the other hand, not a single student passed from 93 institutions. Out of them, 82 are under the Madrasa Education Board.
This reflects an overall increase in institutions where not a single student passed. Last year, there were only 53 such institutions.
When Minister of Education Nurul Islam Nahid was asked about the steady increase in schools with 0% pass rates, he replied: “It is nothing to be alarmed about. But we will be looking into why these institutions have such low pass rates.”