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Changing patterns (Education experts consider the paper pattern and syllabus)

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Changing patterns

By Sher Alam Shinwari

Education experts consider the paper pattern and syllabus as being linked closely to the scheme of studies scheduled for an academic session. Teachers plan their lessons according to the syllabus circulated among the students at the beginning of an academic session so that they can set a timetable well in advance in order to prepare themselves for their semester and annual examinations.

But recently the Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE) boards in Peshawar, Mardan, Abbotabad, Kohat and Bannu baffled the students appearing from there in Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) exams by setting and resetting the course not just once or twice, but three times during the academic sessions of 2006 and 2007.

Changes in the content matter of various subjects also caused great confusion among students and teachers. The new pattern of question papers was said to be effective only for Part-I of the intermediate annual examination in 2007 and for Part-II from 2008 and onwards.

Question papers in Physics-II, Chemistry-II, Biology-II and Mathematics-II in the Inter (A) exam 2008 (Part-II) are being set according to the attached model papers of Physics-I, Chemistry-I, Biology-I and Mathematics-I.

The question papers in Humanities were set according to the general format of papers carrying 50 marks, 75 marks, 85 marks and 100 marks.

The optional part in section ‘B’ and ‘C’ was reduced from 25 per cent to 33 per cent which is effective from Intermediate annual examination 2008 Part-I and Part-II, and onwards. According to the breakup, section ‘A’ carries 20 per cent, section ‘B’ 50 per cent while section ‘C’ has been awarded 30 per cent marks.

Similarly, a notification was issued by the director of Academics and Regularity Authority (ARA) of BISE on February 1, 2008, regarding changes in the question papers of ninth and 10th classes. It said that the General Science question paper for class nine would be set from chapter-I to chapter-V of the General Science book printed by the NWFP Textbook Board while the class 10 question paper (composite) would be set from chapter-I to chapter-XI of the said book for the SSC annual examination 2008, 2009, and onwards.

The class 10 question paper would be set from chapter-VI to chapter-XI. Normally, the new academic session in NWFP starts in September and ends in March with the pre-board examinations, conducted by the home institutions after which the students are free to do revisions at home.

The said notification reached the educational institutions around the end of March and could not be properly communicated to the students. As the various BISE boards still rely on the postal system for delivering their decisions and other important messages to the schools, they are usually received at the end of an academic session while they should be reaching there at the beginning.

So as always this time too we failed to communicate to our students the changes made in the question papers which will definitely affect their performance during the examination,” said the director of studies at a semi-government school in Peshawar.

“There should be no changes in the question paper pattern or the contents of the course books unless the school and college teachers are taken into confidence. As far as my observation goes, these changes were made at the combined board chairmen meetings,” maintains Ali Khan, an academician.

Yet another revised notification regarding changes in the paper pattern for SSC and HSC says that papers carrying 50 marks would have a section ‘A’ carrying 10 marks, which is to be attempted in 15 minutes, section ‘B’ would be awarded 24 marks and section ‘C’ 16 marks. Both sections ‘B’ and ‘C’ would require a duration of one hour and 40 minutes for answering the questions.

The revised paper pattern for SSC carrying 65 marks, the notification further says, would comprise a section ‘A’ , ‘B’ and ‘C’ with 12, 30 and 21 marks and with a time allocation of 15 minutes for section ‘A’ and two hours and 15 minutes for section ‘B’ and ‘C’. The revised paper pattern meant for SSC and HSC, carrying 75 marks, states that section ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ would get 15, 36 and 24 marks with a time duration of 20 minutes, two hours and 40 minutes, respectively.

Secondary School Certificate and HSC papers carrying 85 marks would be set like this: Section ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ would be awarded 18, 40 and 27 marks and the students would again be given a time of 20 minutes, two hours and 40 minutes for completing the respective sections. SSC and HSSC papers carrying 100 marks are said to be set as section ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ that would carry 20, 50 and 30 marks with the same time durations.

Surprisingly enough at the end of all the notifications, the BISE authorities claim that changes in the question papers have been made on the pattern of O- and A-Level examination papers without ascertaining the fact that BISE in the NWFP does not follow their syllabi or content.

“The authorities concerned made all these bizarre changes which are not compatible with our books and system of testing. In addition, it will further encourage cheating in examinations as there is always a so-called hard working candidate in the examination hall who, thanks to rote learning, knows the answers to most of the questions which can always be divulged to his fellow candidates.

“They should be making such drastic changes in our textbooks, which are not sufficiently innovative in their content, and not in the question papers,” suggests Prof Riaz Azam a government college teacher.

“Although there have been some changes made in the class nine, 10 and intermediate course books after three decades. They still contain outdated information,” opined Mr Anwar Shad, a teacher’s trainer.

Teachers also complain that the recently-revised textbooks for SSC and HSC contain numerous blunders.

“I worry for my two daughters. How can they do well in the exams when they have not been taught in school according to the new changes?” Said Arifa Khan, a parent.

When chairman BISE, Peshawar, Prof Tariq was contacted regarding the matter, he was of the view: “All these changes in the paper pattern was communicated to the respective institutions well in time and I don’t think it will affect the students in anyway. On the contrary, it will prove beneficial in terms of their getting better marks while minimising the chances of cheating as according to this new pattern, the candidates will have to read their course books thoroughly.”

Still the question remains — will a change in the paper pattern or course books, without keeping modern challenges in mind, have a positive effect on the overall education system of our country?