The pandemic has affected all aspects of life but the education system continues to be severely impacted into its second year. With educational institutions shutting down, students have been detached from the learning process and this is believed to hamper their progress in the long run. After months of postponing the HSC examinations, the education ministry gave out auto-pass and award results based on the students' performance in their secondary level public examinations. This will apply to students of SSC and JSC. With university admission tests approaching, these students are worried about their future.
"I was expecting the exam board to shorten the syllabus or reduce the number of questions in order to ensure that the examinees were not exposed to public places for a long period of time," shared Tabassum Irin Zaman, a student of Scholarshome School and College, Sylhet. The education ministry's decision, however—while appreciable—will permanently mark the HSC batch of 2020 as the ones who got "auto-passed." "We are already hearing things like we did nothing to earn this result," shared Fahmida Momtaz Rafa, a student of Mohammadpur Preparatory School and College.
The wait for the examinations amidst the pandemic has also affected students' mental health. Their productivity has decreased significantly and they found it difficult to concentrate on studies. "I went through constant panic attacks and was worrying about something I could not control," shared Musharrat Abir Zahin, a student of Viqarunnisa Noon School and College. "Examinations validate learning and this decision could pose enormous challenges for assessing achievement in a way that is both fair and valid.
"Although I am satisfied with my result, I believe that I would have done better by sitting for the examination," Adrita Roy, a student of Dhaka City College, shared.
Her story reflects a portion of the candidates who will now be at a disadvantage, particularly those students who might have picked up their performance after starting college and studying hard for two years. Many others often change their streams after the SSC examinations—a student who did not perform well in science could have done well in humanities. The prediction-based results will not be an accurate indicator of potential or performance for any of these students.
Yet another challenge awaits them in the near future. Admission tests for public universities are set to begin shortly and this leaves the students with little time to revise. The pandemic has also led to coaching centres being shut down so the students are expected to sit for the examinations without having taken any physical model test. "I am trying my level best to prepare well for my admission tests but being unable to simulate the exam hall through online model tests, I am lacking in confidence," shared Toushik Ornee, a student of Dhaka College.
There have been apprehensions over conducting these large-scale examinations in person but most students prefer the traditional method over online platforms. "Although conducting public university admission tests entails the risk of getting infected, there is no other alternative. Considering the large number of aspirants, it is best to fairly judge the potential of students. Since everyone from our batch has been auto-passed, we are expecting a tough admission test to filter the students. The higher number of aspirants also adds more competition," said Surjatapa Sengupta, a student from Thakurgaon Government College. Tahzin Munir Arko of Notre Dame College added, "I would like to see the admission tests being conducted in the traditional way and could have waited for three to four months, until the vaccination drive was complete."
Being an admission candidate myself, I resonate with the concerns over conducting physical examinations. However, I also understand that virtual examinations are not feasible, considering the connectivity and accessibility of internet services. Amidst all the uncertainty, the best thing to do is stay focused and continue the preparation.
The author is a freelancer who likes reading, planning and scribbling. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.