Students of classes pre-primary to three will not have to appear examinations from 2020 as the education ministry expects to implement a formative assessment for these grades.

Education minister Jai Bir Rai said the ministry has discussed this with the Bhutan Council of School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA).

BCSEA experts advised the ministry on switching to formative assessment that has been adopted in developed countries like Japan and Singapore.

Lyonpo Jai Bir Rai said this would not be easy. “Teachers are aware of such an assessment but they have to be trained thoroughly before rolling it out.”

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

The minister said that the ministry cannot do it in the 2019 academic session, as teachers have to be trained in the new system and the system developed to the needs of the children.

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

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the government is going by the advice of the experts.

“They told us to do it in phases and we found that reasonable,” he said. “We don’t want to bulldoze our decision to bring about changes to the system and will listen to experts’ views before deciding. Ultimately, what we want is our policies to benefit Bhutanese and the country.”    

He said that educationists at the ministry said they have been trying to get this change from summative to formative style of education.

“Because exam learning, classroom or textbook oriented learning and exam oriented assessment is something that is very conventional. Most of the modern systems or first world countries are already into formative assessment because at the end of the day we want our children to be more educated, are able to develop their cognitive, social, emotional, cultural and physical skills to the best of their abilities and prepare them for further learning,” lyonchhen said. “Students should be assessed on their class work, participation in schools and through other formative assessments.”

Lyonchhen said that is why a Bhutanese student who is scoring above 90 appears lost when he is in an international arena.

The formative assessment is expected to focus on the holistic development of children.

Lyonpo Jai Bir Rai said that the implementation of the second phase for classes four and five would be based on the improvements 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, the minister said.

The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa had pledged to do away with examinations at the primary level.

Tshering Palden