While the Bhutan Council for School Examinations and Assessment (BCSEA) is resolute in their decision, students and parents have already gone out signing a petition which they say would be put up to BCSEA and Prime Minister Lyonchhen Dasho Tshering Tobgay.
The main problem emerged when it was found that to solve one of the questions worth six marks in the Chemistry paper for class X, the students were not given the atomic weight table, without which they will not be able to solve the problem. BCSEA is adamant that no bonus marks would be awarded.
A total of 196 people, comprising parents and students, have already signed the petition as of now, stating that the grade X exams carry great weight on a student’s academic career in Bhutan. “These exams decide if we will receive government funding for grades XI and XII or not. To be handicapped as we have been without warning is unfair and unjust,” states the petition.
A student, Kuenzang Dema, said she was signing because these marks are important and that it decides which stream she wants to pursue, and what future career she wants to take up.
Another student from one of the high schools in Thimphu, Yangchen Dolkar, who also signed the petition, said the atomic weight table should have been provided as it had been in the past exams.
Tenzin Dechen, a class X student said, “I think it would have been better if the changes made were informed to the schools before the exams because no one was aware of it and the marks decide our stream so its really important for us.”
BCSEA, in-charge of conducting exams in high schools in Bhutan, made a critical change to class X Chemistry paper starting this year where students were no longer given atomic weight table during the exam.
Meanwhile, the petition states that more than correcting the injustice that the organization is trying to justify, it is about setting a precedent that democratic citizens of Bhutan will keep public servants accountable.
One of the parents of a class X student said the decision made by BCSEA not providing atomic weight table is well within their purview. “They cannot enforce the decision if they never announced it and they did not.”
Another student, Tashi Choden, from Thimphu blamed the education system and the BCSEA for being unsystematic.
“If they were more organized, this wouldn’t have happened. Till now the atomic weight table was included in exam and we were also informed that they will be given in the exam this year too. If the ministry of education or the BCSEA had informed us that they will not provide atomic weights, we would not be doing this now,” she said.
According to BCSEA’s Secretary, Tenzin Dorji, as long as BCSEA’s questions are within the syllabus and testing the important learning outcomes as specified in the syllabus or curriculum, BCSEA is not mandated to inform regarding simple changes in questioning pattern.
He said if BCSEA made a mistake they have always been open and definitely had rectified the mistakes so that ultimately the children do not suffer.
“We know the value of examination, more than anyone – and every question we have on our question paper is carefully thought, formulated and set by our teachers in the field who are proficient. I have also reviewed the said questions with our subject expert and also the chemistry teachers on marking duty,” he said, adding, “We feel all the allegations of “table not provided” and also schools have not been informed are baseless and therefore, no changes in marking or bonus marks.”
This year for class X, BCSEA are following the new curriculum initiated by the Royal Education Council (REC). According to BCSEA Secretary, when it comes to the implementation of the new curriculum, REC had informed all the schools including BCSEA and they accordingly planned their assessment.
“The new curriculum does not specify and say tables should be provided to test atomic weight. All BCSEA questions are asked within the framework, policy and also topics given in the syllabus. So if children know the concepts and their matter well – they will not have any difficulty answering BCSEA questions,” he explained.
Tenzin Dorji said good effective teachers have made their students learn the basic atomic weights because it was important for the students to learn and know and not because it was coming in the examinations.
“The confusion is between teachers’ teaching strategy,” he said.
Pema Seldon from Thimphu