The chairpersons of all intermediate and secondary education boards in Bangladesh have expressed their willingness to hold the HSC and equivalent examinations at least two weeks before winter hits the country.
Around 11 chairpersons of the country's different education boards disclosed the information to Dhaka Tribune on the eve of the inter-education board meeting to decide when to conduct the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and other equivalent exams.
The meeting is scheduled to be held at the conference room of the Dhaka Education Board at 2:30pm on Thursday.
They said the Covid-19 National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) had warned of a “second wave” of Covid-19 pandemic coming in winter (mid-November) and advised the government to make preparations.
If the government can ensure and could reduce the number of challenges to take the exam, then the concerned authority can take the HSC exam at any time, said NTAC head Prof Shahidullah.
Earlier this month, Deputy Education Minister Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury Nowfel told that the Education Ministry had not yet discussed or issued directives over the exams. But the ministry would not take any decision without the Covid-19 NTAC recommendations.
After their recommendation, the government would take the final decision whether to hold the HSC exams and reopen educational institutions before the exams, the junior minister added.
On August 27, the NTAC had recommended skipping the exams in October due to the soaring Covid-19 infections.
Possible decision at the meeting?
According to the Education Ministry, a primary draft comprising three to five proposals have been prepared regarding the HSC examinations.
Exams are expected to be conducted on some subjects on a limited scale – maintaining health guidelines – and students would be evaluated based on their JSC, SSC, and Class-XI and XII performance.
But Secondary and Higher Education Secretary Mahbub Hossain said the final decision about the HSC and equivalent examinations depended on the suggestion of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Covid-19 National Technical Advisory Committee and the Education Ministry.
Proposal to include
- One seat per student
- More substitute centres to maintain guidelines
- Parents or guardians not allowed at exam centres
- Exam on limited number of subjects
- Evaluation based on SSC, JSC, Classes XI and XII performance
- Decision on promoting students to Class IX
Proposals had been drafted for submission to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) via the Education Ministry after discussions with the chairpersons of all the boards, he added.
Echoing the same statement, the Inter-Education Board Coordination Subcommittee Controller (exam) SM Amirul Islam said as the announcement regarding an incoming second wave had been made, the HSC exams were expected to be held soon, before winter.
According to the draft, if the government reopens the institutions in mid-November or early October, the examination routine can be completed in 10 to 15 days, with two shifts – one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
However, it is to be noted that by mid-November, the second wave would have already arrived.
Pradip Chakroborty, chairman of Chittagong Education Board, said the chairmen would discuss and suggest to the ministry to not allow guardians of students at the exam centre. Discussions would be held to ensure health equipment for all students. Besides, the ministry would be urged to arrange one seat per student.
Meanwhile, plans are also being made to set up substitute exam centres so that the colleges could reduce the pressure of the sheer numbers of students and maintain health guidelines.
Prof Ziaul Haque, chairman of Dhaka Education Board and chief of Inter-Education Board Coordination Subcommittee, said the meeting had also been scheduled to discuss how students would be promoted to Class IX as Junior School Certificate (JSC) and Junior Dakhil Certificate (JDC) examinations would not be held this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Universities have also suggested holding the HSC exams so that students could be admitted to universities at home and abroad and their academic life was not hindered, added the professor.
HSC and equivalent examinations were scheduled to begin from April 1, but were postponed due to the pandemic.
NTAC cautions about health guidelines for board exams
The National Technical Advisory Committee(NTAC) led by Prof Dr Mohammad Shahidullah has highly recommended some guidelines to the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus and also ensure the protection of students to maintain public health.
“We had suggested to the education minister at an online meeting held three weeks ago, that the HSC exam should be postponed for now. But, the exam is a burning issue and there is also a need for students to take the exam,” said Prof Mohammad Shahidullah.
“But taking such a big public exam is also a big challenge. So we had two recommendations – if the infection rate has a low turnout at the end of September or the first week of October, then the Education Ministry can conduct HSC exams according to the public health experts’ suggestions,” he added.
Secondly, if the preparations are made quickly, then the exams could be taken in a short time, he said.
“NTAC also said that there is no alternative way to maintain physical or social distance during the exam. The students and teachers will have to properly wear a mask, wash hands. All these facilities must be prepared before the exam,” he said.
“Moreover, I am not saying that the exam cannot be taken but we have to evaluate the situation a little more. If the Ministry of Health ensures the basic public health rules, there will be no obstacle to take the exam before the winter season,” he added.