Amid coronavirus concerns, the education ministry last year promoted students to next level without holding major public examinations such as the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC). But, it does not want history to repeat.
"Our decision is to hold the SSC and HSC exams this year," Professor Nehal Ahmed, chairman of the Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board, Dhaka, told The Business Standard. "We have no scope to provide grade points without taking tests."
In 2020, the education ministry prepared HSC results on the basis of the previous SSC and Junior School Certificate (JSC) results and published them, allowing cent percent of students to come out successful for the first time in the history of Bangladesh.
For the last couple of years, SSC examinations usually kick off on 1 February and HSC on 1 April.
"It is possible to hold the examinations after preparing the students. We are now observing the situation and will start classes for the SSC and HSC students first," said Professor Nehal Ahmed. "But it will be delayed."
Students are worried as they do not know when the examinations will take place and what will be the process.
A big number of students could not attend online classes and even be in touch with teachers since March 2020 when the government closed all educational institutes as part of its battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shamima Akhter, an HSC examinee from Motijheel Ideal School and College, told TBS that she is in severe mental pressure due to uncertainty over the examinations.
"I have partially studied many topics from my textbooks at home to prepare myself for examinations. I cannot comprehend most of the topics of the short syllabus given by the education board," she said. "I could not be in touch with my teachers. I will be in trouble if the ministry holds exams without taking classes."
Rahat Hossain, an SSC examinee from Kurigram district, did not take part in online classes in the absence of a digital device and a high-cost Internet package. He is now waiting for the reopening of his school.
"I see the syllabus but cannot understand it. I have to go to my teachers after the reopening of the school. I cannot sit for examinations without studying further," he said.
The education ministry expects that at least 22 lakh SSC students and 15 lakh HSC students will sit for examinations this year.
The government has extended the ongoing closure of secondary and higher secondary educational institutes until 29 May.
SSC students must attend classes for 60 days and will get 15 days to prepare for examinations after completing the short syllabus.
Prof Syed Golam Faruk, director general of Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, told TBS that there is no chance to prepare SSC and HSC results without holding examinations.
"We have provided the short syllabus to students and we will take 60 and 80 classes for SSC and HSC students respectively after the reopening of schools and colleges."
Asked when schools and colleges will reopen, he said it depends on the improvement in the Covid-19 pandemic.
When SSC, HSC exams are held?
Class-V students will attend classes for five days, while X and XII classes will take place for six days a week. The students of other classes will attend school one day every week.
Schools can take 20 classes a month and SSC students need three and half months and HSC students need four and half months to sit for the examinations.
If the educational institutions are reopened on 29 May, the SSC exams can be held on 15 September and HSC exams on 15 October.
Professor Dr Nazrul Islam, former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and a noted virologist, told TBS the government cannot reopen educational institutions until the Covid-19 infection rate comes below 5%.
"In fact, we have to wait to see the new infection rate till May 30 as people are moving around the country on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr," he said. "Even the infection rate might increase if we find more Indian variants in the country."
The government on 16 March last year decided to shut down all educational institutes and coaching centres from 18 to 31 March for the sake of students' safety from the coronavirus infection.
The closure was later extended several times. The government also did not hold the Primary School Certificate (PSC), JSC, and their equivalent exams last year due to the pandemic.
The PSC and JSC examinees were promoted automatically, while HSC students were assessed based on their JSC and SSC results. All students from the primary to the secondary level were also promoted automatically.
About 4.5 crore students from the pre-primary to higher education level are enrolled in nearly two lakh educational institutions across the country.