This is an opportunity to build a new and improved system
The Higher Secondary Certificate examination, one of the most important public examinations in the country, has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. The exam, scheduled for April 1, has been postponed because of the overall situation of the country regarding the virus. However, it is a great loss that the exam is still hanging on the balance because of the virus. Years of preparation of HSC candidates are being jeopardized because of this delay due to coronavirus.
As such, it is not wise to keep the examination on hold for much longer because this may lead to academic year losses for students. What we need to do now is what many universities in Bangladesh and also the world are doing: Going digital.
We say that we have achieved the goal of Digital Bangladesh, but the public examinations are still taken in an analogue fashion. A large volume of paper is wasted to print question papers and prepare answer books for the students who take the exams.
Also, the amount of manpower required to proctor the examinations and mark them is also astounding. We waste a significant amount of financial capability to make this happen.
The money could definitely be used elsewhere in the education system to make it more modern and worthy.
But if we can switch to a digital platform for the exams, all those problems can be tackled. The question paper for the examination can be pulled from a large question bank of multiple choice questions on demand. Students can log into the examination system with an account and take the test anytime they want to. They can either use a home computer or use government-provided facility centres in the upazila level.
Of course, there are some limitations to this plan, and they are mostly logistical. Do all the HSC candidates have access to internet and computers? Most of them probably do not. But that is why I propose that they use the government facilities. But I am sure that many government facilities in the upazila level lack the necessary devices to make the digital HSC examination a reality.
If the government sends laptops to all the upazilas, then taking the exams digitally could be a reality. There need not be very many laptops, as students can take turns using the same laptops at any time they want. Also, there is no chance of cheating because each question set is uniquely designed for each student.
One of the greatest problems in our education system, to me, is the overindulgence with examinations. The public examinations are too lengthy and too complicated for no reason at all.
The public examinations are nothing more than a government-sanctioned assessment of whether or not the students have achieved certain educational qualifications. An MCQ test is enough for that. A two-part exam, one written and one MCQ, is unnecessary.
Students already pass internal tests of their schools and colleges, and public examinations need not be more than the last checkbox to get them to the next step of their educational career.
The government is mulling cutting down this year’s HSC examinations. I say, do not cut down the exams, go digital. That way, we save money, stop cheating, and create a modern way of taking public exams that is new and improved from the current system.
Anupam Debashis Roy is the editor and organizer of Muktiforum.