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Dhaka Tribune

HSC pass rate, GPA 5 down this year

Update : 03 Aug 2013, 03:15 PM

A drop has been noted in the results of this year's hartal-marred Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and its equivalent examinations, with the combined pass rate of 74.30% against last year's 78.67%.

The number to score high grade point average, GPA 5, also fell in all the education boards, except for the technical board, compared to last year. This year 58,197 students compared to last year 61,162, scored GPA 5.

As many as 1,002,496 students from 7,657 educational institutions sat for HSC exams in 2,288 centres. Of whom, 744,891 were successful.

This year, boys scored higher than girls in pass rates and grade points.

Meanwhile, madrasa students performed even better than the students of all the education boards.

The pass rate for general education board is 71.13%, last year it was 76.50%, with 46,736 students scoring GPA 5, and last year 51,469 students scored high grade points.

Out of the eight general education boards, the pass rate is highest in Sylhet board (79.13%) and lowest in Chittagong (61.22%).

Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid handed the results to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Saturday morning, and formally announced the results at a press briefing in the afternoon.

The results were available in educational institutions from 2 pm, and also published on the education board website as well as via SMS service.

The prime minister congratulated the students of an institute in Jessore via video conferencing part of Digital Bangladesh programmes.

However, Hasina and the education minister criticised the opposition parties for shutdowns and violence while the exams were being held - several exams were rescheduled due to hartals - for causing students stress.

The prime minister said the decline in pass rate was not because of students or teachers. "It is the BNP and Jmaaat-Shibir who are responsible...We repeatedly requested them to not declare hartals during the examinations, but they did it."

The education minister blamed the lack of foresightedness of political leadership for the damage caused to the future generation.

He pointed out that 32 exams had to be rescheduled for hartals and dates for the English second paper under Chittagong Education Board were changed four times.

HSC exams were held between April 1 and June 3, when there were nine countrywide shutdowns and in some regions even more. Strikes were mainly called by Jamaat-e-Islami, key ally of the main opposition BNP, against war crimes trial verdicts leading to violence across the country. The situation was compounded by the May 5 Hefazat seize of Dhaka, which almost paralysed the capital and its surroundings for several days.

Bucking recent trends, boys did better than girls this year. The pass rate for boys is 74.32% and for girls 70.29%, with 31,638 male students scoring GPA 5, while 26,559 female students scored high grade points.

In the Madrasa Education Board, the pass rate is 91.46%, it was 91.77% last year. A total of 6,009 madrasa students scored GPA 5, while last year 7,073 scored high.

Pass rate for Technical Education Board this year is 85.03%, last year it was 84.32%, with GPA 5 for 4,658 students, while last year, 2,211 scored high.

A total of 164 students sat for the exams in five overseas exam centres, of whom 148 passed, and 32 achieved GPA 5.

Pass rate not an indicator for education quality

Over the years, pass rates in public examinations have risen significantly. In the last eight years, HSC pass rates have crossed 60% and even reached 70%. In 2005 it was around the 50 threshold while in 2001 it was in the 30s.

From 2006 onwards, it rose at a steady rate until last year, except 2009, but this year there was a fall.

Academics, however, say pass rates cannot judge education quality. They think the overall examination and admission test system needs to be revisited.

"While increasing pass rates are encouraging, it does not always determine the standard of education. Similarly, when the pass rates fall, we cannot always say the education standard are deteriorating," said Manzoor Ahmed, senior adviser at Brac University's Institute of Education Development.

"In many cases, the present system cannot properly test competency as the system requires memorising," he said. University Grants Commission Chairman AK Azad Chowdhury said he believed when a teacher checks, he is a judge. He admitted in university admission tests many students, who achieve high grades in HSC examinations, do not fare better.

"Whether there is a problem in the university admission system or in the public examination, we should examine it," he said.

Debates in recent years over increasing pass rates in all public examinations, have prompted some experts to question the trend as a political decision.

Niaz Asadullah, a researcher and assistant professor of Reading University, UK, has researched Bangladesh's public examination system. He believes increasing or decreasing pass rates do not represent the standard of education.

"There is confusion over the use of creative questions. Teachers still prepare exam papers based on past systems. Therefore, through coaching, students can still secure a passing grade with ease. Here, memory is being tested instead of competence. So the high pass rate does not imply improvement in quality," he told the Dhaka Tribune on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid said about decreasing pass rates, that some people expressed doubts if the pass rates was raised from original figures, which the minister said is proof the actual figures were published.

Explaining the reasons for decreasing pass rates, he said that due to political unrest during exams students were stressed, and this lead to lower marks. 

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