Experts oppose decision to scrap MCQs

05 April 2018

Experts have urged the government not to drop Multiple-Choice-Questions (MCQ) from exams, but to instead, find the underlying cause of question leaks in Primary School Certificate exams or PSC.
Several experts responded to a's query on the National Academy for Primary Education's decision to drop MCQs in Primary School Certificate Examination on Monday. Primary  and Mass Education Minister Mostafizur Rahman had said the decision was made based on 'expert opinion' on preventing question leaks. Question leaks have been rampant in examinations for the past few years and have begun to a menace the fifth grade completion exams. The government has taken several measures to prevent leaks, but has been unable to do so. "We are not reaching the roots of the problem of question leaks although the government has dropped MCQ to prevent the leaks; we need to find out the main cause," said Rasheda K Chowdhury, executive director of Gono Shakkhorota Ovijan.
She also highlighted the stress public examinations put on students.
"The students run after teachers anxiously while teachers and education institutions bring up coaching centres, guide books and the illegal business of question leaks to feed the unhealthy competition of getting a GPA 5---this is the new reality of our students' lives," she said. The former adviser to the caretaker government said the dishonest will continue to leak question even after dropping MCQs from the PSC if they are not prevented from doing so. She also added that it might be best to cancel the PSC and JSC exams altogether.
"Our research showed the exams only help to spread the coaching business. Therefore, it might be best to abolish them," said Chowdhury. Educationists have been recommending the abolition of PSC for some time, but Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has never agreed to it. Syed Manzoorul Islam, an English Department professor at Dhaka University, reiterated the need of finding the reason behind question leaks, but supported dropping MCQs from exams. "The MCQ system is a vicious circle that leaves students devoid of any talent. Dropping MCQs will reduce the question leaks to a certain extent but it is not the only solution," said Professor Islam. He suggested that examiners should be careful while checking the copies in creative exams.
"Teachers do not check the exam copies properly while grading, which means students are not evaluated properly; their knowledge is not evaluated. Therefore, the exam copies should be scrutinised," the professor said. He also recommended an increase of the remuneration for examiners grading the copies.
"Teachers will be careful in grading the exam copies if the entire system is moderated by a third party and not random; they would check the copies properly if they have it explained to them," said Professor Islam. Prof Mohammed Kaikobad of the Computer Engineering Department at Bangladesh University of Engineering and technology (BUET), who has worked as an adviser to the government regarding the prevention of question leaks, expressed a mixed reaction on the government's decision.
"I am sure experts have taken the decision based on research," he said. Students from Viqarunnisa Noon School celebrate clearing their PEC examinations on Saturday.
"There is a reason for introducing the MCQ system. When we evaluate the written answers, similar answers get different assessment, creating a disparity. But it never happens in the MCQ system," said Prof Kaikobad. He believes the MCQ system needs proper management instead of abolition.
Guardians on the other hand, provided a mixed reaction regarding the dropping of the MCQ system.
"Children are already stressed out with the PSC exam, the MCQ makes it easier for them to score," Saima Hossain, the guardian of a fifth grader at MDC Model Institute in Mirpur told  
"They shouldn't have dropped the MCQs all of a sudden when three months have already gone by. It would have been better if they dropped it next year," she said. "It's a good initiative to abolish the MCQ system, but it should have been done in the beginning of the year," said a guardian of a student at a private school in Mohammadpur.

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