A parliamentary standing committee has recommended scrapping the multiple choice questions (MCQs) from examination systems and returning to the original written test format to avoid question paper leaks and improve the deteriorating standards of education.
The recommendations came during a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Primary and Mass Education Ministry at the Jatiya Sangsad complex on Sunday, according to a press release from the Parliament Secretariat.
Head of the committee Motahar Hossain chaired the meeting that discussed the leaks of question papers. Primary and Mass Education Minister Mostafizur Rahman was also in attendance along with committee members Md Nazrul Islam Babu, Md Abul Kalam, Ali Azam and Ummey Razia Kajol, among others.
The members said students and their parents were drawn to the leaked questions because of the MCQs, a system that fails in most cases to evaluate the students against the standards.
They said teachers also give students the answers sometimes during tests as it takes less time to answer the MCQs. “This may have increased the number of GPA 5s and the pass rate, but the education standard is not improving.
“This is why many are failing to pass the admission tests to get into good institutions for higher education even after obtaining GPA 5 in all subjects.”
Committee member Kajol said they felt the standard of education was dropping because of MCQs, which was why they have recommended doing away with the MCQ system and returning to the written test format.
However, their suggestions came just a day before 1,311,457 students sat for this year’s Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and its equivalent examinations in 2,541 centres across the country.
Starting Monday, a total of 1,092,607 examinees will sit for the exams from eight general education boards, 100,127 under the madrasa board and 117,754 from technical board, from a total of 8,943 educational institutions.
Also, 299 students will appear in the exams from seven overseas centres.
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The written examinations will continue till May 13 and the practical examinations will be held from May 14 to May 23.
Students with physical disabilities will receive an additional 20 minutes in the exams and those with special needs, including students with autism, will get 30 additional minutes.
To thwart question paper leaks during the exams, the government has already taken several measures, one of which makes it mandatory for all the examinees to be seated in the exam centres 30 minutes before the tests begin.
No one, except the secretary of the exam centre, will be allowed to carry mobile phones and electronic devices. The secretary’s phone will have no camera or internet.
S/hewill also be allowed to open the packets of question papers only after getting an SMS with the directive to select the set on which the exam will be taken.
State Minister for Education Kazi Keramat Ali last month had told the parliament that the government was planning to scrap MCQs in public exams in phases to stop question paper leaks.
While prominent educationists praised the government’s decision, they also said more measures had to be taken in order to stop the leaks.
In addition to criticizing MCQs as a poor method of testing, they said the mindset of teachers needed to be changed and surveillance stepped up to truly ensure fair examinations with little chance of cheating.
In light of the leaks during the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and equivalent exams in February, the Education Ministry had also announced that it would introduce a new method for the SSC exams from next year to prevent question leaks.
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On February 15, Sohrab Hossain, secretary at the ministry’s Secondary and Higher Education Division, told reporters: “Under the current system, it is not possible to prevent questions from leaking...We will definitely come up with a solution and involve experts with it. From next year, the exams will be held in a new format that will be above reproach.”
The parliamentary standing committee on Sunday also urged all officials concerned to work on making structural changes in the question papers to ensure quality education for the students and the overall standard.
It also recommended nationalization of the primary schools and information technology training for the teachers.
TIB seeks 10-year jail for question paper leak
The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Sunday placed a nine-point recommendation, including reinstating the provision of10-year imprisonment by amending the relevant law, to check question paper leakage in public examinations.
The recommendations were made public at a human chain formed at TSC of Dhaka University, according to a press release.
The recommendations also include completing the formulation, printing and distribution of question paper digitally, publishing the reports of investigations into incidents of question paper leakage and taking proper steps as per the probe bodies' recommendations, keeping several sets of question papers for every subject, increasing supervision against misuse of technology and removing ambiguity in the policy to stop coaching business by teachers.
TIB published a research report on August 5 in 2015 where it suggested some recommendations. The government has partially implemented the recommendations.
Sections of this article were first published on banglatribune.com