The present testing systems in the secondary level of our country is severely criticized by some teachers and scholars. A BRAC Research Report “Effect of BRAC-PACE Training on English Language Teachers of Rural Non-Government Secondary Schools” by Arifa Rahman, Md. Mahbubul Kabir, Rifat Afroze contains a trained teacher’s opinion on testing in Bangladesh. He says “Although this method and the text book both focus on developing the language skills of English, it wouldn’t help students do well in public examinations. More and more students are leaning towards coaching centers. As a result, effective application of CLT is not possible in the class.” So, the testing encouraging the coaching system which is a curse for our education.
In two other studies on ELT projects at the secondary/higher secondary level, Rahman (1999) and Quader (2001) both point to the presence of strong resistance to innovation and change not only from the end-users (the teachers) but also from a variety of stake-holders (head teachers, senior teachers, parents and even students themselves).
The examination boards too resisted stoutly by refusing to bring about meaningful changes to the test papers. Whatever changes were implemented was cosmetic, not at all substantial – thus perpetuating the negative backwash effect of examinations on teaching and learning.
The backwash effect of examinations has a strong influence on teaching and learning. This consumes all learning/teaching energies in formal education and although assessment is professed to be skills-based, SSC tests still remain related to content and amenable to memorization. Recently, 40 marks for grammar has been introduced in the secondary school state exams, thus opening up the possibility of bringing back traditional grammar-based teaching into the classrooms.
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Md. Kamrul Hasan, Ph.D (2004) claims that Present curriculum sees continuous assessment as central to the evaluation system. This is considered as a means to see how far teaching and learning are taking place and teachers can use this as a mechanism to see whether the previous item/lesson has been sufficiently understood and whether the class should move on to a new one. At each stage of assessment, evaluation should be based solely on the skills and elements taught in the class up to the time. For proper evaluation to take place, teachers should know their students and their capabilities.
Before the introduction of the present syllabus and evaluation policy, monthly tests were used to evaluate students’ progress. Monthly test is still popularly used by many teachers throughout the country. However, many teachers even do not bother about continuous assessment or even any monthly evaluation. Terminal or annual examinations are the only vehicle that they use to evaluate students’ progress.
After evaluating some prominent schools he concludes that the question format of Bogra Cantonment Public School like the ACED School question format matches the question format provided in the curriculum report of the NCTB. But two points are worth mentioning here. First point is that the text taken from the course book must be reproduced and passages in the 2nd paper will be unseen, however, on familiar topics.
In evolution of monthly assessment he says that, the question format discussed above differs to some extent from traditional ones. Typical questions like “Change the voice.” or “Change the narration.” are absent here. However, these questions still examine students’ explicit knowledge of grammar rather than their ability to use English. So, the course objectives as well as the evaluation objectives of ELT should be set first in terms of communicative goals.
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Although the syllabus states “Grammatical Terminology should be avoided” (Curriculum and Syllabus: classes 9 and 10: Dakhil Examination 2000; p-21), explicit grammatical terms have been used in above questions. For testing writing skill, some very common rather stereotyped topics are given to write essay on them. Subjects of writing letter or application are also overdone.
In conclusion, He says that “Although the examination of the seven general education boards has been revised according to the national curriculum, and efforts have been made to match the evaluation objectives with syllabus objectives, there are still significant gaps between what is intended to be taught and what is measured in most school examinations. The Madrasah Education Board is yet to adopt a communicative syllabus that will cater the needs of its students. It should first address its existing syllabus in question to the national English language policy, and then revise it accommodating the modern trends in ELT. Developing appropriate textbooks, methodology of teaching, evaluation tools will come consequently. Schools and Madrasahs need to interpret the syllabus objectives spelt out in the national curriculum and look in how far their test objectives match the syllabus objectives.”