An entire generation of promising students may be left behind
Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni has announced that the exams will not take place this year, and the candidates will be awarded based on their previous academic records. Considering the present intensity of Covid-19, and in an attempt to avoid the possible second wave of the outbreak predicted by health care specialists, this decision is rather admirable.
By contrast, if I take the long-term consequences of the decision into account, the impacts on student life in the future cannot be brushed aside. First and foremost, students being awarded grades based on their JSC and SSC exams are susceptible to social negligence and bullying.
Humayra Haque, an HSC examinee from Holy Cross College, says: “One of my relatives said that although you are earning certificates without appearing in exams, remember you will not find any job without an interview. Several others have continuously been mocking us. It drags our mental state down.”
In fact, being teenagers, students like Humayra possess very little knowledge of how to handle this psychological pressure, which may result in despair among the candidates. What would you say to those who had sound preparation and aspiration for obtaining better grades despite poor marks in SSC and JSC?
Sarwar Hossain, a sibling of my colleague and an examinee from Notre Dame College, ended up with poor grades in the JSC exam just because he lost his mother before the exam. A few months later, he lost his father, which led to poor SSC grades. Nevertheless, he almost recovered that psychological shock and targeted the HSC exam to compensate. The exam being cancelled is leading him to the verge of despair for the third time.
The other concern is whether these HSC candidates will be able to pursue higher education abroad. If yes, will they be capable of competing with other international students? Cancellation of exams does not necessitate candidates to study and prepare intensively for the exam and will serve as a means of detachment with study for the candidates.
Thus, their spirit will no longer be as strong; traditionally, Bangladeshi students are accustomed to studying hard when the exam is close to hand. With no exam ahead, this might slow down their perseverance, even if the biggest battle of the university admission test is soon to come for them.
Beyond doubt, university admission tests are the most competitive academic tests in Bangladesh. In the 2019-20 session, for example, 191 applicants battled for a single seat in Jahangirnagar University, followed by Dhaka University where 39 students vied for a single admission spot; 34 each battled for a single place in Rajshahi University and Shahjalal University of Science and Technology.
These HSC candidates do not have to undergo any challenges of facing board exams in order to gain results, which in turn indicates that it is least likely for them to grow a sense of competition, resulting in no apparent flourishment in their skills and knowledge.
Around 130,000 examinees were supposed to appear in this year’s exams. They were waiting and preparing for the exams to be held, with no prior hints of the cancellation of exams beforehand by the government.
Now, they will not have to fight for grades. As a result, this inexperience of participating in competition is likely to make them suffer once they get into university admission procedures, higher studies abroad, and their professional lives. They could fall behind in the job market and in other crucial stages of life.
How would you justify these things to those who have to be deprived of being admitted into their dream universities, due to their poor grades in HSC, earned based on the results of their grade eight and grade ten exams, and not based on their actual efforts in the last couple of years?
Even more so, there is a certain eligibility for applying to universities without which they cannot even take part in the admission test. But the automatic generated results might not be up to the mark if earlier academic results are poor, thus confining them to a limited scope for succeeding in admission into their desired universities.
As it stands now, assessing students based on their previous academic records in which the syllabus and content differ significantly from the higher secondary level is not pragmatic. Neither is it a prudent decision after keeping the candidates waiting for over six months.
Mahde Hassan works as a faculty member of IELTS at Saifur’s Private Ltd. Email: [email protected]