THE minister of state for primary and mass education coming to have said that the government will not discontinue the Primary Education Completion Examination and will rather set up a separate board to hold them, now held centrally under the supervision of the district education officers, has reasons to raise concern. The plan is reported to have already been included in the ministry’s development programme. The Directorate of Primary Education and the National Academy for Primary Education have already been asked to modernise the Primary Education Completion Examination that essentially is a public examination but government authorities have largely appeared unwilling to call it so. The directorate and the academy are, as reported, working to reduce the syllabuses, from pre-primary to Class V, amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, so that this year’s examinations could be held in December. Under a special circumstance such as the COVID-19 emergency, the move for the reduction in the syllabus so that the examinations could be held in time sounds good, but the move for further consolidating the examinations in the national education system does not sound good as it may leave adverse impact on the students and the system.
The National Education Policy 2010 recommends a uniform, free primary education up to Class VIII, which suggests that the Primary Education Completion Examination that was introduced in 2009 would be dispensed with and, as it had been in discussions, the students, after taking their first public examinations at the end of Class VIII, would take their second public examinations at the end of Class XII, the Higher Secondary Certificate Examination that is, with the Secondary School Certificate Examination at the end of Class X also to be dispensed with. While the government appears to be standing back on its plan, the consolidation of the Primary Education Completion Examination will also consolidate the burden that the examinations have already levied on the students. Four public examinations for students before going for tertiary education, also through competitive admission tests, have for long been said to have created a tremendous pressure on children, leaving them little space to learn, and not even to play, and pushing them, aided by their parents, guardians and society to put in their all efforts solely in scoring good marks, as is evidenced in expert statements that note a huge gap between student performances and their competence as measured in national student assessment.
Education officials believing that the Primary Education Completion Examination has made students serious about learning and teachers about teaching appears more to be a subterfuge. The government should rather regularly assess the quality of education and the standards of teachers to make education more effective, meaningful and lasting. The government must, under such circumstances, discontinue, immediately, the Primary Education Completion Examination and, gradually, the Secondary School Certificate Examination to afford learners some space and time to learn the way they should and to play the way they need.
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