Emulating Singapore And Japan, Bhutan Aims To Do Away With Exams In Phases For Primary School Students

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Instead of using the traditional mode of gauging a student’s performance through tests and exams, the Education Ministry in Bhutan will roll out the ‘formative assessment’.

Zangtherpo Community Primary School in Choekhor, Bumthang Valley, Bhutan. (Source: Peter W. Carey)

 

By Tshering Palden | Kuensel

Starting from the year 2020, students in Bhutan from the pre-primary level to Class three are not required to sit for examinations.

Instead of using the traditional mode of gauging a student’s performance through tests and exams, the Education Ministry in Bhutan will roll out the ‘formative assessment’.

The Bhutan Council of School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA) experts have advised the ministry on switching to the mode of ‘formative assessment’, following the footsteps of more developed countries like Japan and Singapore.

The Education Minister, Jai Bir Rai said that the ministry has discussed this new measure with the Bhutan Council of School Examination and Assessment. However, he said that this transformation would not be easy.

Imperative to train teachers first before rolling out the new system of formative assessment

“Teachers are aware of such an assessment but they have to be trained thoroughly before rolling it out.”

Photo: Great Himalaya Trail

 

The ministry will review the current continuous assessment and come up with a new system thereafter.

The Minister also said that the ministry will not be able to implement this new measure in time for the 2019 academic session. Teachers in Bhutan would first have to be trained in the new system. Moreover, the system has to be developed to tailor to the needs of the children.

“We will roll out two rounds of professional development training for the primary school teachers before we implement the new assessment,” the Lyonpo Jai Bir Rai said.

Changes to the assessment system will be carried out in phases

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the government is following the advice given by the experts. “They told us to do it in phases and we found that reasonable,” he said.

 

Bhutanese kids wearing traditional costumes seen in their classroom.

Photo: Wind Horse Tours

 

“We don’t want to bulldoze our decision to bring about changes to the system and will listen to the experts’ views before deciding. Ultimately, what we want is our policies to benefit the Bhutanese and the country.”    

The Prime Minister also said that the educationists at the ministry have been trying to lobby for this change from the ‘summative to formative’ style of education.

Bhutan aims to break away from the traditional mode of assessment and embrace a more holistic approach to education

“Because exam learning, classroom or textbook-oriented learning and exam-oriented assessment are very conventional.”

He added that most of the modern systems or first world countries have already adopted the ‘formative assessment’ style of teaching.

“At the end of the day, not only do we want our children to be more educated, we also want them to be able to develop their cognitive, social, emotional, cultural and physical skills to the best of their abilities and prepare them for further learning,” the Prime Minister said.

Laptsakha Community School is a small community school in the Laptsakha village at Talo, Punakha. Druk Asia identifies community schools which it can help by improving their quality of education. It usually supports projects which can provide the most immediate benefits in consultation with the school management. 

Photo: Druk Asia

 

Instead of relying on traditional modes of exams and tests as assessment methods, students should be assessed on their class work, participation in schools and through other formative assessments. The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa had also pledged to do away with examinations at the primary level.

The Lyonchhen (Prime Minister) also mentioned that is why a Bhutanese student who is scoring above 90 in class, appears to be lost when he is in an international arena. The ‘formative assessment’ mode of teaching is expected to focus on the holistic development of children instead.

Mode of assessment for class four students and beyond will be dependent on the outcome of the first phase

Lyonpo Jai Bir Rai explained that the subsequent implementation of the second phase of the ‘formative assessment’ for class four and five students will be based on the outcome of the first phase.

“We’ll have to scrutinise more for the assessment of class six,” he said. “There is no plan B because we have no doubt on the success of the programme.”

The decisions in the education sector are the most difficult to take as the impacts show only after a long time, according to the Prime Minister.

 

This article first appeared in kuensel  and has been edited for the Daily Bhutan.

 

 


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