Improving quality of higher secondary exams via a third party.

In a recent decision, the Sindh government has opted to hire a third party to conduct secondary and higher secondary examinations instead of instituting reforms in the services of five Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISEs). However, this decision is rife with complications.

The question arises: is the third party expected to raise the quality of the examination? If so, then what is the current quality of BISE examinations and how is it influencing the teaching and learning process in schools? This article only addresses this issue, subsequent articles would focus on logistic and political issues.

In 2016, Sukkur IBA conducted extensive research to evaluate the quality of items used in the BISEs examinations and how these influence teaching and learning. Using a desk review approach, the ten-year examination papers from 2005 to 2016 were selected from English, Mathematics and Sciences (Biology, Physics, and Chemistry) of grades X and XII. Each item in the question papers was analysed to determine its cognitive complexity using Bloom's taxonomy, the frequency, and variety in which each item was repeated in the different years and the chapters from where these items were taken. The findings reveal that most of the items assessed students' memorisation and comprehension. On the contrary, the National Curriculum proposes developing analytical, evaluative and creative skills of grade X and XII students.

Likewise, items were frequently repeated word for word every year, creating a pattern that the tuition centre 'gurus' use to predict the upcoming paper and float their 'guess papers' in the market. The accuracy of their prediction increases their market value, thus attracting more students to their private tuition centres. This repetition pattern is also good for the business of local publishers who publish handy guides, good to be used for cheating during examinations.

Similarly, some chapters were given more priority and others were ignored in the examination. Thus the concepts of 'important' and 'unimportant' chapters emerged among students and teachers, who devotedly focus on all the 'important' chapters and religiously avoid the 'unimportant' ones. The syllabus...

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