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October 13, 2019

Planned composite exams a hard sell to teachers

Islamabad

October 13, 2019

Islamabad :The education ministry’s plans to revert to the traditional composite exams for matriculation and intermediate courses in Islamabad Capital Territory haven’t sat well with teachers, who strongly feel that the move will negatively impact student learning.

They also called those at the helm in the ministry ‘confused’ insisting that on one hand, the semester system is being introduced in local colleges in the form of Associate Degree and BS programmes post the Higher Secondary School Certificate courses but on the one, a single exam has been planned for ninth-10th grades as well as 11th-12th grades.

Federal Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood, whose ministry regulates Islamabad’s public sector schools and colleges through the Federal Directorate of Education, announced lately that from next year onward, Islamabad’s both matriculation (9th and 10th grades) and intermediate (11th and 12th grades) students would sit composite exams i.e. 10th grade and HSSC-II exams to be conducted by the respective education boards.

Currently, they take board exams for all 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grades.

The teachers criticised the ministry for taking the exam system back to square one and insisted that the annual exam system was introduced 20 years ago in light of the shortcomings of the two years exam system.

“Under the two years exam system, the students become lethargic and show negligence towards studies as the examinations are conducted after a gap of two years and most students prepare for them by studying the entire syllabus when they get closer to the exams and thus, becoming stressed,” a college lecturer said.

Another teacher called the composite exam system a ‘burden’ for students saying in that two-year annual system, once the students enter the college, they feel free and think about studying the course only during the exam time.

“We need to make the university and board exam systems compatible. It’s ironic that education boards are turning to one exam post two years studies when the universities and their regulator (HEC) are promoting the semester system. These two opposite approaches will cognitively disturb the students’ learning skills, especially those necessary to fare well in examinations,” he told ‘The News’.

The teacher said both ADP and BS programme were based on the semester system, which divided an academic year into two six-month terms and on the contrary, the matriculation and intermediate students would have to take a single exam for two years course.

“Not only will the two-year composite study stress out the students during exam days while preparing two-year syllabus but they will also struggle with the semester-based ADP and BS programme after passing the composite intermediate exam,” he said.

A college teacher favoured separate exams for grades from 9th to 12th saying they’re convenient for students to manage for good grades.

“Under the one-year exam system, the students focus on their course, while in the composite exam system, they tend to become careless in the first year of course and overburdened in the second. We (ministry) should care for students and not boards. The boards are for students and not vice-versa,” she said.

The teacher said she firmly believed that the annual exams were better than composite ones for assessing the student learning outcomes.

“My foremost concern for HSSC pre-graduation students is that they will study more than five subjects every year. Taking exams of more than 10 subjects in one go will be a tall order for them, she said.

Another college lecturer said specialist courses (for commerce and home economics) were designed as stand-alone courses and the ones taught in the first year (of intermediate programmed) wouldn’t be taught in the second year.

“This may cause an undue disadvantage for our students in exams for the courses they studied last year,” he said.

The teacher said he felt that both students and teachers were more organised and more focused during shorter academic terms with regular formative assessments as preparation for terminal exams. “Longer terms may give a false sense of ease regarding the time available for exam preparation,” he said.

The teacher said the annual exams also helped students prepare for a more demanding semester system for which where they had to complete their courses in numbered days instead of months and years.

“The annual exam system keeps the students in touch with books all through the year. Their subject knowledge is checked regularly and if they get low marks in the first year, they have the chance to improve (aggregate mark percentage) in the second,” he said.

He regretted that not only was the education ministry introducing the out-dated composite exam system when the world was moving to a shorter period of assessment but it also didn’t bother to consult teachers in the policymaking.

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