education boards

The conduct of the entry tests has also raised a major issue of lack of trust in examination results which has badly affected the overall credibility of examination and Education Boards.

Eminent educationist of the country, chairperson of the National Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (NACTE) Islamabad and Professor Emeritus of Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED) Karachi Prof Dr Muhammad Memon who earned his Ph.D. in Education (Curriculum Studies) from the University of Surrey, England in 1989. He has won many laurels and awards throughout his shining career as an educationist of the country. He served as chairman of the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education Hyderabad (BISEH) Sindh, officiating chairman of other BISE Mirpurkhas and Shaheed Benazirabad.

Why don’t public and private universities trust the education boards and conduct pre-entry tests for candidates?

Dr MM: There might be an element of lack of trust of the universities and professional colleges in the boards’ examination results but the universities and professional colleges as academically autonomous have their own admission policies to ensure the right kind of candidates are enrolled in their programmes to maintain certain standards. This is a global practice of the universities to test students before they enroll in the programmes.

Can we do something which will satisfy universities not to take a pre-entrance test?

Dr MM: Yes, the board exam must align with the requirements of the entry tests and the boards must improve the quality of examination to assure the universities and professional colleges that their result grades are not inflated and all quality assurance processes are followed. However, the management of universities and professional colleges and boards may discuss this issue and resolve it amicably.

Since when did public and private universities start conducting pre-entry tests for candidates?

Dr MM: For over two decades, there was a growing concern among the universities and professional colleges about the low quality of education and inflated grades of the education boards, the universities and professional colleges decided to conduct their entry test based on certain standards.

Students put additional efforts to prepare themselves for the entry tests through private academies which charge quite high fees. Thus, due to a lack of alignment of Board examination and entry test requirements, the majority of students don’t perform well. The conduct of the entry tests has also raised a major issue of lack of trust in examination results which has badly affected the overall credibility of examination and Education Boards. This must be resolved by bringing about improvement in the examination.

How could we make the examination system of Sindh effective?

Dr MM: Many countries have improved their examination system but Pakistan has not yet done much in this regard. It is right to say that the boards’ exam system hasn’t changed much. The pedagogy of teachers is highly influenced by the demands of the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC) examinations. As a result, teachers prepare the students for examinations through rote learning and the students are expected to reproduce their knowledge in the examinations. The examination questions are selected from the textbooks rather than the curriculum which seems to be a major weakness of the examination and these are mainly based on a lower order of cognitive skills, hence, there is no room for assessing students’ higher order of cognitive skills in examinations. However, the paper setters don’t follow the specification of tests hence the majority of questions are prepared to assess students’ memory. In absence of the specification of tests the teachers don’t know why they are teaching the subject matter, the paper setters don’t know why they are preparing the items for the question papers and the examiners/assessors don’t know what and how they are assessing the items. A number of research studies and donor reports indicate that the examinations are not fully transparent and fair due to cheating and other unfair means in the examination. Although the boards have taken necessary steps to curb cheating and other malpractices, there is no substantial improvement. Thus, students get high grades and positions but when they appear in the entry tests of the professional education institutions many of them fail to pass the entry tests which has badly affected the image and credibility of the examination.

In order to improve the examination system in Sindh, I prepared a draft strategy for improving the examination system and shared it with all the relevant stakeholders, but there was no progress so far. The draft strategy contains the following policy actions:

Introduce automation of examination system, assess students’ higher order of cognitive skills, introduce curriculum-based examination, change papers of question papers-items banks, Improve teaching and learning process, Conduct fair and transparent examination, Develop robust marking scheme and scoring rubrics, prepare transparent examination results and conduct research in the examination.

Could one board and one education system not serve Sindh?

Dr MM: Generally, there is a single education system in Sindh but there is variation since several providers offer education in educational institutions and the public sector is a large sector, however, delivery of education varies from school to school, district to district, and division to division due to varied quality of teachers, pedagogy, assessment, physical facilities, school leadership etc. Similarly, there is a variation of the delivery of education within the private sector due to its size, capacity and purpose. The Board’s examination result also confirms the variation in the performance of educational institutions within the public and private education sector. The private sector performs better than the public sector, however, there are some exceptional cases in the public sector. School supervision and inspection can play a significant role in strengthening the education system and overcoming major variations.

How many candidates of four classes (from 9th class to 12th class) appear in board exams in Sindh every year?

Dr MM: I don’t have an exact figure of SSC and HSSC candidates but the estimated figure of SSC and HSSC candidates could be over 1 million in Sindh.

Would you like to comment on cracks, fissures, flaws and glitches of both the education systems in public and private boards and how can we make up for these shortcomings?

Dr MM: The boards’ examination has suffered from poor quality of question papers which are based on the textbooks than the curriculum, lack of institutional capacity, lack of robust conduct of examination, cheating and other malpractices in the examination, lack of effective use of technology in the examination, lack of transparency in examination results, and analysis of examination results. In order to improve the examination system there is a need to improve processes related to pre, during and post examination through a viable policy on the examination.

Do you think? exam copies of the boards are assessed on merit?

Dr MM: All boards follow certain criteria to select the head examiners and sub-examiners who are normally senior public or private school teachers to make assessment authentic but due to lack of robust scoring rubrics the examiners don’t follow the principle of authentic assessment. As a result, every year several students show their displeasure about the assessment and the Boards do try to address the students’ grievances. Authentic and accurate marking is an issue which has also affected the quality of examination. Although the Boards arrange orientation etc with the examiners the issue.

Source: BOL News

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