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Assignment A New Addition To Secondary Education

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20th-Nov-2020       
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Masum Billah :
In order to avoid health risk the government stopped the annual examination for the students of grade six to ten and they have been asked to submit three assignments each week instead. However, their learning outcomes will be assessed through this assignment. A total action plan has been developed on which week which thing will be assessed. Assignments are given to the students at the beginning of the week and they submit the same to the schools at the end of the week. Assignments can be submitted online or the guardians can do it on behalf of the learners. The assignments include explanatory questions, short question answers, creative questions, documentary etc. students will have to produce these on white paper. Teachers are directed to receive the assignments, evaluate, put their comments and show the students and records to be kept in the institutions by 31st December 2020. Each and every student from grade six to nine will have to participate in these chains of events. All the institutions must keep the records of the students properly as DSHE directed.
The directions say that students can see and download the assignments uploaded on several platforms including 'Kishor Batayan' staying at any part of the country. However, things don't happen smoothly. It takes time to upload the materials and sometimes things are quite missing. It is not an easy task to invite all the guardians to school and give them assignments for their children. So, uploading the assignments on certain website might be a convincing idea to get the students engaged in academic activities during this crisis hour of COVID-19 and long closure of institutions. To call the guardians over phone has also seen problems as many guardians are not reachable through cell phones; many guardians' cell number was seen blocked or closed. Many students started working leaving the school who cannot be reached and talked.
The idea of assignment has been confined usually to the higher education that implies research work. It entails clarification, analysis and finding out answers of a certain problem. COVIE-19 crisis has forced us to bring assignment to secondary level. Even teachers of this level have little familiarity with it let alone students. Still, it cannot but be appreciated as it has established a bridge between the students' work and book as they had been detached  from academic touch and dealing with text books since the closure of school from the  middle of March. Now the teachers concerned and the school authorities opine that this assignment could have been given to the students after the closure of the school that would keep the students in touch with the text books narrowing the gap and the learning loss the students have already incurred could have been avoided significantly.
The students have become pleased to get such kind of tasks though at the end of the year. They have started coming close to the textbooks. In some places, they are coming in contact with the teachers and schools maintaining safe social distances as they had been out of these touches for eight months. Now they seem to be pleased. In the rural areas students are doing these jobs where guardians remain busy. Their coming into contact with the teachers and school is helping remove their monotony. The students who were about to drop out, will come back to education after getting the assignment.
Assignment develops the creative faculty of the leaners and extends their horizon of thoughts and learning. Many students do not (not all) read the textbooks because of the availability of readymade answers, prepared answers in the note and guide books. However, a trend has developed quickly among the students to deal with the textbooks during this time of receiving and submitting assignments. But some teachers or individuals have uploaded the prepared assignments in different social media that is tantamount to using readymade answers from note and guidebooks that hinder blooming the creative faculty of the learners. Definitely students will have to collect information from different sources to further develop their own writings. However, it can never be appreciated that students should follow the note and guidebooks to write their answers directly from there. When it is done, the creativity of the learners get spoiled that we never should allow it to happen.  In this perspective the students and guardians should not follow those notes directly. Students need to go through the basic texts that are much more enjoyable, authentic and help them retain any idea without any distortion that note and guide books or prepared answers of third person cannot ensure. Students can take help from the model assignments that can be uploaded on Youtube or FB but direct assignment given by DSHE should not be uploaded that will definitely tell the story of note and guidebooks that will not help the students bloom their own creativity.
Giving assignment to the students and collecting them from the students of grade six to ten, putting respective teachers' comments will redress a little bit the criticism already developed due to the decision of `auto pass' for the students of intermediate level.  We know that in the management of examination, we can learn the results but cannot ascertain how much knowledge actually a student has acquired in a particular subject. Examination is the determinant of pass or failure in the current assessment system; however, it does not necessarily determine the real assessment of a learner. In this perspective, it is far better to introduce 'assignment' system which is a part of gradual or formative assessment as well.
If a teacher provides every information to the students, then their learning competencies get harmed by this, and education becomes meaningless. So students are expected to gain knowledge at their home, and clear doubts regarding different concepts from teachers. It helps them to achieve desired outcomes through different ways. It offers a good scope to the students to a great extent to develop their writing skills and abilities along with their imaginative and mental abilities. Writing assignments provide the opportunity to students to develop innovative ideas while improving their thinking skills to a considerable extent. Assignment writing helps the students develop a habit of exploring different assumptions and examples about the topic. By means of assignments, students will be able to conduct research in a detailed manner, and this will help improve their abilities for research also. Assignment writing helps them learn some techniques and structures of writing that can be beneficial for them in the long run. Finally, we can take the opportunity to appreciate the concern the ministry of education for taking such a laudable step for our future leaders.

(Mr. Masum Billah works for BRAC Education, previously taught in cadet colleges and Rajuk College and regularly writes on educational and social issues. He is the president of English Teachers' Association of Bangladesh (ETAB). Email: masumbillah65@gmail.com)

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