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Doing away with exams

What would come as good news for students, the government has decided to do away exams for primary schools. It will be done in phases and replaced by a formative assessment where students will be judged on modern assessment systems and not only exams.

The decision has come after consultations with the Bhutan Council of School Examination and Assessment. How and when it will be done would be known after the teachers are ready to assess students. The decision is good.

It will be a break away from the conventional method where students are assessed on examination alone. A lot of developing countries are adopting the method. It is proving practical in these countries.

Like the Prime Minister said, exam-oriented or textbook-based learning is not wholesome. One final examination cannot judge a studentโ€™s performance of a year. In some our examinations, like the board examinations, the final exam is the ultimate decider even if a student did very well in the internal exams and other assessments.

To the worry of some schools and educationists, some schools, especially private schools are only preparing students for the final examination. It is said that students are asked to solve past many yearโ€™s question paper because the teachers believe that the question repetition rates are higher. The consequences are felt only after they graduate for tertiary institutions when the way they are prepared for life is different.

The social media is full of parents posting about their childrenโ€™s success. School put up banners on result day and award exam toppers. This is not a healthy trend. This is putting pressure on both students and parents. We have had stories of children taking lives because they didnโ€™t do in the final exam. They could have been good at others.

There are more than just exams to assess a student. Not every student is going to become a civil servant. The need of the hour is not civil servants. That we have one for 13 Bhutanese. Apart from doctors or engineers, who are also civil servants, we need people in many professions. Going by todayโ€™s need, we need carpenters, masons, interior designers, plumbers and so on. Early wholesome assessment of students could give educationist and parents the upper hand in preparing their children for realities of life.

This could also help our policy makers decide the needs of the country. For instance, they could decide on more and better equipped vocational institutions where graduates can replace the thousands of people we hire from outside.

Because we lack, options, everybody wants to become a civil servant. That is the ultimate aim for most parents. So they beg and borrow and make their children complete at least a university degree. Then when the reality sets in, we have hundreds, even thousands of them not finding jobs.

The government had decided to do away with exams. They should look for best practices around the world and also look at the suitability of it in our context. What is working in Singapore or Norway will not work in Bhutan.

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