MCQ to be Banned Gradually

MCQ; Photo credit: elearning industry
MCQ; Photo credit: elearning industry
Masum Billah
Written by Masum Billah

Some important suggestions were made by prominent educationists of the country in a meeting for ‘developing the quality of education in the country ‘which was organized by the ministry of education on 26 May 2016 at CIRDAP auditorium and Nurul Islam Nahid, the honorable education minister chaired it. Prominent educationists urged the government to remove the system of Multiple Choice Questions or MCQ from examinations among some other suggestions such as banning all kinds of notebooks and guidebooks available in the market.

The multiple-choice test is a very flexible assessment format that can be used to measure knowledge, skills, abilities, values, thinking skills of students. Such a test usually consists of a number of items that pose a question to which students must select an answer from among a number of choices. Items can also be statements to which students must find the best completion. Multiple-choice items, therefore, are fundamentally recognition tasks, where students must identify the correct response. It is an efficient and effective way to assess a wide range of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and abilities (Haladyna, 1999). All these positive aspects and things can be tested if these questions can be developed intelligently. However, things did not happen accordingly in our examination system rather it became an instrument for the students to obtain only high marks which rather brought some negative perceptions and results.

MCQ provides unprepared students the opportunity to guess, and with guesses that are right, they get credit for things they do not know. It exposes students to misinformation that can influence subsequent thinking about the content. There is a tendency to write items requiring only factual knowledge rather than higher-level skills and understandings. Performance on Multiple Choice items can be influenced by student characteristics unrelated to the subject matter, such as reading ability, deductive reasoning, the use of context clues and risk-taking. The students corrected the answers through discussions which fails to assess the individual performance of the students.

Since its introduction, the results of public examinations began to witness undermining and devaluation of the results. Students who obtained second divisions before its introduction began to obtain star marks crossing first division bars. Obtaining first division in the public examination was a matter of prestige and if a student got first division, everybody had a high opinion about him/her and really the expected level of knowledge they acquired. And, the further brighter and hard workers managed to obtain star marks which carried a special value. When students began to obtain star marks by virtue of MCQ, the value of first division and star marks disappeared and people lost their interest to look at first division and star marks holders.

The present government has recently decided to reduce the worth of MCQ by 10 marks from next year. Currently, 60 out of 100 marks in each examination are allocated for writing and 40 for MCQs. According to the suggestions of education experts gradually MCQs to be removed from our examination. It will be replaced by more essay and analytical questions. This might be a good decision to make our learners really creative and innovative. Professor Abudullah Abu Sayeed said in the meeting, “we observe that the teachers themselves aren’t capable of preparing creative questions. They are following guidebooks. It means we are once again moving towards the age of guidebooks. A central question bank can be prepared and examination papers can be prepared from there.’

Abu Sayeed sir has proposed it considering some practical points as teachers do not prepare the questions themselves. They just copy the questions from the guide books even in the public examinations. He thought developing a central question bank can be a solution to it. Actually, question bank reminds us of the days of MCOs question bank. Students began to read just question bank and teachers copied questions from there. Finally, it lost its utility and value. After many criticisms, arguments and counter-arguments the so-called question bank was banned. But the guide and notebooks have occupied the place of question bank and students and teachers follow them. Still, we do not support introducing ‘question bank’ system. Some models with very good examples can be developed and teachers should be asked to study a lot so that they can develop creative questions.

Criticizing very high pass percentage, Sayeed said, “Such high pass percentages are suspicious, people’s interests in results have gone down.” Peoples’ losing interest in the results of public examination actually started since the introduction of question bank and MCQ system. Students without having any analytical ability also obtained very high marks in the MCQ tests which was 50 in each subject. More interesting is that students need not pass separately. If they could obtain pass marks in MCQ part, they were declared successful. This was a serious demeaning of the assessment system.

Former governor of Bangladesh Bank Mohammad Farshiuddin said, “The MCQ system of examinations should be stopped. Coaching and private tuition centers are doing brisk business. If the students read guidebooks, what the need for textbooks are?’ he also recommended that public examinations be completed within 7-10 days. ”Professor Zafar Iqbal said, “The textbooks should be written in such a way that the students do not need to read any other study material or take private tuition.” This is undoubtedly a very good suggestion.  The steps and ways our NCTB follow to develop textbooks call for revision and rethinking. Former advisor to caretaker government Rasheda K. Chowdhury said, “Now the primary education has been upgraded from five to eight, it should be compulsory and free.” She also suggested removing MCQ from the examinations.

Professor Mohammad Qaikobad said, “Textbooks must be made interesting for the students and better questions have to be ensured, along with better evaluation.” There are also very important points. Out textbooks cannot attract the students. Attractive textbooks can retain the interest of the students and quality texts provide the basic facts of the subjects. Our textbooks have been printed in the midst of huge pressure and within a short time frame as a huge number of textbooks need to get printed every year for distributing them among the students free of cost which keeps ample room for compromise with the quality and beauty of the textbooks. The entire gamut of textbook development and assessment system must be reviewed and redesigned with utmost importance in the greater interest of the nation.

About the author

Masum Billah

Masum Billah

Masum Billah works as an Education Expert in the BRAC Education Program, BRAC, and President of the English Teachers' Association of Bangladesh (ETAB), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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