The students who get enrolled in class six after crossing the bar of the PECE examination show a considerable amount of weakness and learning gap and its percentage is more or less 75. These students continue their studies with that weakness and learning gap and get dropped out of school till they reach class eight, and this is the second largest cause of dropout after poverty. In order to address this gap, the ministry of education, under its SEDP project, will introduce ‘diagnostic assessment’ in grade six. This diagnostic assessment will help identify the real weak areas of the learners and adopt some remedial measures that can be said a laudable step.
In order to determine students’ individual strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, and skills prior to starting a new stage of education are usually known as ‘diagnostic assessment’, which is practised in some countries of the world. Diagnostic assessment tends to diagnose the difficulties of the learners and to guide lesson and curriculum planning. However, from a psychological aspect, young learners may feel or develop a negative idea in their minds as they will be coloured ‘weak’ and ‘different’ other segments of students. For this reason, psychologists stand against this approach.
However, students naturally get divided into several categories on the basis of their performance, academic understanding, or the rate of participation in the classroom activities or actively attending games and sports or performance in the cultural fields as either of these areas draws teachers’ attention. When identification of individual weakness is done, teachers can provide instruction to address learning needs.
On 24 September 2020, the education minister suggested some guidelines regarding the scheme `Improving student’s readiness for secondary education and national assessment of secondary students’ and accordingly, the project is being redesigned. When the scheme is finalized, it will be placed before the BMC committee of the ministry for their opinion and feedback. On 02 August 2021, in the presence of the education minister, deputy minister, education secretary, DG-DHSE and DG-Madrasa and Technical Education experts and the writer himself, a workshop was held on this diagnostic assessment issue that lasted for four hours.
In the workshop, it was decided to test students’ competency in Bengali, English and Mathematics. In English, the grammar and vocabulary were proposed to be tested. However, we advocated putting emphasis on a language test, making grammar tests contextually. We also emphasized introducing the ‘listening’ and `speaking’ test in the diagnostic assessment that both the Minister for Education and the Deputy Minister appreciated.
Usually, the pass rate in the PECE examination is 98 per cent, and out of them, 96.5 per cent get admission in class six. The dropout rate at the secondary level has indeed decreased considerably. Still, 25 per cent of students drop out before completing their grade eight and 36.7 per cent drop out before completing SSC level (BANBEIS). In the backdrop of such a picture of drop out, the plan to introduce diagnostic assessment can be a welcome move. Teachers can plan meaningful and efficient instruction and provide students with an individualized learning experience through this step.
However, students will not have to take extra preparation to take this diagnostic test, and the test will be taken in the respective classroom, and its results will not be published like public examinations. It will be absolutely school-based. The schools will have to develop a report on the basis of this test of weak students. This kind of approach is available in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the USA.
Of course, in these countries, it is conducted school wise. However, in our country, DSHE wants to introduce it centrally at the initial stage. When the school shows their ability to arrange it individually, it will be decentralized. Many steps lie ahead to start the test, such as informing the heads of educational institutions, developing test items and piloting, conducting a test, developing results and reports, developing remedial materials. So, they want to start the procedure in August, distribute papers in November, arrange training for teachers in January, and conduct the test in February and March.
Some teachers/officials set the examples of developed countries such as Canada, America, Australia and the UK where ‘diagnostic assessment’ has been in vogue. But we need to consider our context. Many important things happen in those countries that we cannot afford to follow because of our financial crisis, culture, tradition and environment.
So, the things which fit our culture and tradition can be adopted, not all the aspects of education in developed countries. Detailed discussion was held on how to conduct remedial classes after identifying the weakness of the learners, when to conduct classes, how long, by whom and whether teachers to be given remuneration and how to make it sustainable. Also, DSHE wants to include it in the teachers’ training.
Many of them did not want to give remuneration to the teachers. However, I am in favour of providing remuneration to the teachers. It is far better than allowing so-called private tuition in the schools than introducing such type of arrangement. More importantly, the poor guardians will have not to pay an exorbitant amount of private tuition fee as it happens in many schools that students are compelled to receive private tuition at the cost of money.
This trend and traditions will disappear if such arrangement can be started. The same teachers/officials want to include remedial classes in normal classes. This is also another blunder. How will things be addressed if remedial materials are used in the usual class? All the students will not be included in the remedial class, we assume. What will happen to them if extra materials are used in the common class?
I found in cadet colleges that new intakes of grade seven have to go through the ‘talent show’ and ‘identifying merit’ test even though they have to cross several stages of the admission test. This diagnostic assessment shows they are further identified and treated accordingly in the rest of their cadet life. What they exhibit in the `talent show’ and `identifying merit’ test continue till the end of their cadet college life.
If some cadets recite poems nicely or sing nicely, they have to remain involved with cultural activities throughout their cadet life, and they become cultural prefects in the house and centrally. Similarly, those who are good at sports become games prefect. In several of my write-ups, I proposed to the education authorities to introduce such shows in class six as they will have to mix with different kinds of new students and friends and face a new environment.
If the only test to identify their weakness in academic subjects is administered, it may negatively impact them. The opportunities to show their other talents like dancing, singing, reciting poems, staging dramas, and showing leadership qualities will make them more motivated, enthusiastic, and confident. It will help them cope with the new situation, friends, teachers, and environment. The ministry’s plan will be able to play a significant role in identifying and understanding our learners’ learning needs if both diagnostic assessment and talent show can be arranged. That will definitely remove the psychological cloud students are supposed to suffer from in a new environment.