Assessment stands as one of the significant components of teaching learning situation. Students, teachers, materials, methods of teaching and evaluation are the main components of teaching. We assess our learners through public examination which falls in the category of summative assessment. Though formative and summative assessment together can certify a leaner how much he/she has learnt, we depend absolutely on summative assessment. And this summative assessment has become questionable because of several reasons for the last several years. The frequent leakage of question papers has further aggravated the situation and thrown the whole learning community into a deep crisis.
The government formed a seven member committee headed by education ministry additional secretary of administrational and finance Sohrab Hosain to put forward recommendations on how question papers of different public examinations can be protected to check their leak and what action should be taken against the people involved in HSC question paper leak. The committee has given four specific recommendations and fourteen general recommendations to fight this evil.
The news of leaking out HSC English and Mathematics Second paper questions has compelled the government to postpone the examination of 9 April 2014 and form a probe committee to look into the matter. Based on their recommendations, our Education Minister on 02 July 2014 said that there must be changes in public examination giving salute to the old one. We cannot afford to hold the examination for more than one month which is a present trend. He said examination would take place without any recess except public holidays. He believes that it will leave no room for question papers leak. In his language, “The changes will be brought based on the recommendations made by recently formed investigation committee and opinions of experts and educationists to be elicited through workshops and seminars.”
Though there lays no direct link between the leakage of question paper and the long gap in the examinations, the committee has recommended as one of the ways to minimize leaking out questions. However, we should remember that students are the first important component among all the five ones in teaching learning situation. Teachers, materials, methods and evaluation all are for the students. Therefore, we cannot afford to give them penalty for the wrong things and evils done by others. It is true if there lies no gap between the examinations, students will not be able to utilize the leaked questions. Examination does not employ student’s mental labor only. It employs their physical, psychological and mental stress together. Therefore, there must a reasonable gap between the two examinations to make them mentally and physically prepared to face the next examination. If it is not done, they will face serious mental pressure which may give rise to another evil.
The committee members recommended setting up a central question bank by creating question papers’ knowledge-base and database where more than one question sets can be made automatically by using Artificial Intelligence (AI). It may be a good suggestion and recommendation. Nevertheless, we should take care so that bank does not turn into so called question bank develop during the previous time when objective questions were introduced and students’ knowledge remained confined to only question bank.
They also suggested introducing a three-tier security measure such as password of users, biometrics and user access card of device to be used for the question papers. It will check that one or two persons or stages will not allow seeing the question papers so easily as is done today. Their recommendations also include introduction of Digital Stamp Control to ensure open up and distribution of question papers by the centrally-controlled time. According to this method, the questions of different sets will be sent to Upazila and district administration and just before starting the examination, from the central board orders will be passed to open a particular set get it printed. It is also another good way but we must be ready to face any technical problems and think of their solutions. Again, a well management must be ensured to print a huge number of question papers in a short time in spite of electricity problem.
They also said 20 sets of probable question papers of each subject should be created as per the syllabus, and the authorities of the boards concerned will select five sets of question papers from the twenty sets through a lottery. It means that leaking out questions and becoming sure will not be an easy task. Even if some students collect the leaked questions, they will not be interested to use them as they are not sure which set will be used in the examination. Hence, the tendency to use the leaked questions among the students and guardians will find a sloping trend.
The question should be kept in packets of the boxes having Radio Frequency Identification after publishing those at the BG press so that only designated officials who will have RFID controlled chip could open up the question papers at the scheduled time. The committee also suggested if possible to avoid BG press as it has been proved several times that it is the main source of this crime. The ministry should find out alternative ways to print the questions avoiding BG press.
Our Minister Nurul Islam Nahid said they would work out a detailed work plan after forming a committee with educationists, exam related experienced officials and IT experts to identify the way for implementing the four specific recommendations of the committee to protect question papers of different public examinations check and their leak. We do adore this decision. A unitary decision of the ministerial people cannot give a good solution. The involvement of experts and people related to this affair is a must to give it a foolproof system. The government must give due importance to the general fourteen recommendations made by the committee as well. These are lessening the public examinations into five, finding out alternative way to print question papers not fully depending on BG press, to collect secret reports of the people of BG press every six months, setting up a good number of CC Camera in the question moderation room, question setters and moderators should be selected very carefully avoiding the traditional way, lessening the number of MCQ question and increase the amount of punishment of the perpetrators.
Another important thing should be taken into serious consideration. The committee has failed to name the people involved in leaking out question this year. They have identified the sources but nobody wants to mention their name. The names must be very powerful or closely linked with powerful people. This thing must be death with utmost care and very technically. We all are familiar with this hard nut to crack.
MASUM BILLAH: Program Manager, BRAC Education Program, Brac and Vice-President, Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association (BELTA), Dhaka, Bangladesh.