Mathematics and science – the usual suspects

The blame for the poor class X results has been laid at the door of these two subjects

 BCSEA: The students’ poor performance in mathematics is mostly to blame for the worst class X results the country has seen in the past eight years, according to the Bhutan council for school examination and assessment officials.

About 30 percent of the students failed in mathematics, by far the most in recent years.  The previous year, in 2013, only about four percent failed in the subject, and the mean score, which reflects the quality of the students’ performance, was 55.79.

The mean score in mathematics in the 2014 board examinations dropped to 51.42, the lowest among the subjects.

Among the students, boys did better than girls.  Seventy three percent of 5,307 boy students passed the subject, while the percentage for girls was 66.93.  In the mean score, boys got 53.56 and girls scored 49.54.

Students also performed poorly in science, with 74.65 percent students passing the subject, with mean marks hanging low at 51.52.

Teachers said the question paper’s difficulty level was moderate, and that there were equal number of students who performed extremely well.

“While some did very well in the subject, there were others who failed miserably, so it’s difficult to point the problem,” a mathematics teacher said.

Pelkhil HSS principal, who also teaches mathematics, Umesh Kumar, said Bhutanese students have to overcome the fear of the subject.

“If the students prepare systematically, they can score higher marks in mathematics than other subjects,” he said.

Another teacher in a private school said the content of the subject too needed some redoing.  “What we find is that the problems solved in the textbook and the paper are mostly essay or analytical and don’t develop the numerical ability of the students,” the mathematics teacher said.

Mathematics is one of the main subjects to qualify for admission in to class XI.  Students opting for the science stream must have a minimum of 40 percent in mathematics and 55 percent in science, with pass marks in biology, chemistry and physics.  Merit order listing will be based on the sum of science and mathematics.

The merit order for students opting for commerce would be based on their marks in mathematics, and each student should have a minimum of 40 percent.

The poor performance has hampered many students from qualifying for class XI.

“The poor performance cost dearly to some students, as they’d have qualified had it not been for the mathematics marks,” a teacher from higher secondary school in Trashigang said.

Some 5,972 students missed the 61 percent cut-off point that the education ministry set for admission into government schools this year.   The national pass percentage also fell by 2.2 percent in 2013 to 93.73 percent.

While the private schools would take in about 3,000 students, the rest would have to enter the job market.

By Tshering Palden

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