There will not be examinations for Classes PP to III. This was what the education ministry decided Wednesday at the on-going Annual Education Conference in Phuentsholing that concludes today. The resolution, however, will come into force only from 2020.

Even as the move is aimed at holistic development in children through competency-based assessment, concerns are being raised from different quarters of the society. It is only to be expected that we choose to err on the side of caution. When the education ministry launched New Approach to Primary Education in 1986, the change was received with certain circumspection. And so was Educating for Gross National Happiness in 2009.

When the subject of the debate is change in our education system, such expressions of reservation are welcome. It means we are concerned about the education of our children and the long-term future of our nation.

What we must understand is that the goal of formative assessment is to help students identify their strengths and weaknesses, for the teacher to recognise where the student is struggling and to address problems, as opposed to summative assessment or learning where learning is evaluated at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark. The change is very much desirable so.

However, what is important when we are preparing to launch a major shift in the system is laying a strong foundation for the new system to rest well and prosper. We cannot afford to omit or unsee the role of every single unit in the system that goes or will go into giving the system a new lease of life. Failing which, we will end up causing a harm to the future of our children and that of the nation.

The plans that the ministry has rolled out for the change bring us some comfort, however. That in a year’s cushion time we have, the ministry will fully train all the primary school teachers, is reassuring. We are told that a budget of Nu 160 million has been set aside for formative assessment training of the teachers. Because the teachers are at the heart of the system, this is critically important.

All these succeeding, we will have an education system that can serve the needs of the changing times.