The ongoing 19th national education conference in Phuentsholing resolved to do away with examinations for Classes PP to III from the 2020 academic session.

Educationists decided that teachers would be given professional development training for formative assessment in 2019 winter vacation.

All primary school teachers would be trained for formative assessment. The chief of school planning and coordination division, Kinley Gyeltsen said formative assessment is a competency-based assessment.

“We don’t actually test the cognitive development but see the child’s competency development. We see what the child is learning and how the child is developing on a daily basis,” he said.

In the existing summative assessment, a child is taught and the next day he or she is tested on whether the child remembers the lessons or not. “Which is about just what is taught and what the child remembers,” he said. “But formative assessment is an ongoing process, about how the child is progressing; it is about listening, writing, and social skills.”

Although no estimates on the budget for this transition is available yet, Kinley Gyeltshen said Nu 160 million has been approved to train teachers for formative assessment to align with the new curriculum.

Director general of the department of school education, Karma Tshering, said formative assessment is critical and teachers have to be prepared well.

Of the many advantages of doing away with the examinations, he said students would have less examination stress.

“We can focus on a holistic development of a child,” he said, adding that this system would also reduce the number of dropouts and repeaters.

Karma Tshering also said that there would be timely measurement of children’s learning. “For this, the education ministry has to work closely with the Royal Education Council, Bhutan Council for School Examination and Assessment, and Colleges of Education.”

Education minister, Jai Bir Rai, who is also attending the conference, said that it would be a tedious process.“We have to work hard but in the long run, it would be effective,” he said.

He said investing in education is important for the country. “Findings of implementing formative assessment for classes PP to III would help in doing away the examinations for classes IV and V,” the lyonpo said.

Chief dzongkhag education officer (DEO) of Thimphu, Tashi Namgyel, said doing away of exams for Classes PP to III is a good move.

“This is because we want to focus on building competencies rather than test results,” he said. “Globally, that is the trend.”

Putting young children to examination pressure would mean the fun in learning would be lost, Tashi Namgyel said. “Students should instead get more social interaction skills and learn to understand the environment better.”

The education officer also said that doing away with examinations for classes PP to three is doable as there was a year of cushion time to prepare and work.

Another participant, the chief DEO of Chukha, Kinley Gyaltshen, said that this could be both an opportunity and a challenge.

“We have to build the competencies of the current set of teachers in the school. We have to have professional development programmes for these teachers to build the competencies in formative assessment, its practices and procedures,” he said.

Kinley Gyaltshen also said that there is a need to ensure that these teachers have enough time to concentrate on the teaching as well as carry out the formative assessment and maintain documents, which are related to formative assessment.

He said the formative assessment is a series of scaffolding processes during which a child is not rated with marks but is made to improve his or her performance.

“It is a process where the focus is on how the child is doing and what can be done to improve,” he said. “The child is never assessed.

Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing