Added burden to class size and infrastructure shortage

If the quality of education needs to be upheld and students encouraged to work hard, there should be a cut-off point to promote Class X pass students to Class XI. The initiative to do away with cut-off point has led to students become complacent in their studies.

This is according to research on “Implications of Promoting Class X Student to Class XI Without a Cut-off Point in Bhutanese Schools” conducted by a group of lecturers from Samtse College of Education.

The research has recommended that the present pass percentage of 35 percent for promotion from Class X to XI be reconsidered or reviewed to maintain the quality of education. It has proposed a cut-off point within a range of 50-60 percent to encourage students to work hard and value education.

The government did away with the cut-off point in 2019 and promoted students who secured 35 percent and above in public schools and on scholarship in private schools. However, with many people raising concerns regarding the implications of this initiative, a study on the implication was initiated.

Going by the findings and response from the parents, it was shared that this initiative impacted their children’s learning; students did not take studies seriously.

Many parents shared that students started saying they have a “guarantee card” which would automatically promote them to class XI. More than 50 Class X students stated that they had lost interest in their studies.

This was evident with 2020 Class XII result where an overall pass percentage was 90.63, a decrease in the overall pass percentage by 0.92 percent compared to 2019.

Among other reasons, the decrease in overall pass percentage was also attributed to doing away of cut-off point because the total of 13,560 students who appeared in the exam was the first batch who was promoted to Class XI based on the government’s initiative.

“Students do not take the board exam seriously because they found it easier to score 35 percent due to continuous assessment (CA) component,” a teacher participant shared. “Even academically low performing students would get 15 out of 20 in CA that’ll help achieve the 35 percent overall marks.”

More than 5,000 participants, including school principals, teachers, parents, students, and officials from the education ministry and Bhutan Council for School Examinations and Assessment (BCSEA) were interviewed for the research.

Equally, there were also students who intentionally did not work hard to go to private schools to enjoy more facilities. Teachers also expressed that the complacency had affected their academic performance.

A cut-off point for the selection of students’ progression to higher secondary education was in practice since the late 1970s and the early 1980s in the Bhutanese education system.

A certain cut-off point served as a screening benchmark for students to progress to Class XI since all students could not be accommodated in higher secondary schools apart from allowing students with a certain level of academic attainments to be promoted.

All participants, including students, said that students have now started chanting the mantra “Tshagay Malang, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa Yoed” instead of studying hard.


Impact on the resources and facilities

The findings have also recommended that the education ministry in consultation with respective schools to assess the requirement of resources and facilities to be put in place to avoid disturbance in teaching, learning and assessment.

Many teachers agreed that the removal of the cut-off point had increased the workload due to an increase in the number of sections and class size.

One aspect of resources and facilities that were impacted was overcrowded hostels and classrooms in public schools.

For instance, one of the schools had to increase its sections from four to six to accommodate more students and in another school, boarder student increased from 400 to 700.

Further, it led to a shortage of textbooks and inadequate subject teachers. The class size also increased from 30 to almost 46 students.

“The introduction of any initiative should be preceded by investment in terms of establishing the required resources and facilities,” the report stated. “The government must study other ground realities that the initiative would necessitate.”


Impact on assessment

The findings also revealed that the removal of the cut-off point has affected assessment practice and there was a need to carry out a study on the reliability of continuous assessment marking practices in schools to plan a way forward.

Principals also expressed that due to the increase in class size, teachers’ workload on assessment has increased and it has become difficult for them to assess.


Narrowing the gap?

Many agreed that the removal of cut-off point has led to a decrease in school dropouts since the government provided financial support for students to continue their education.

But when it comes to narrowing the gap, the researchers stated that this initiative will not help narrow the gap between the rich and poor since there was no disparity in the award of scholarship.

The participants expressed that narrowing the gap would be achievable only if the scholarship is provided to economically disadvantaged students.

This is why the research has suggested that the government must study the financial or economic status of the parents and provide it to those who really need it.

Respondents expressed that the government should reconsider the set criteria, conduct a proper study and work on developing a policy of offering a scholarship to financially disadvantaged students.

By Yangchen C Rinzin