The first day of Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and equivalent exams was mired in different sorts of irregularities on 15 September. There were reports of distributing the wrong set of question papers. Some 26 examinees were expelled for malpractice. Besides, two teachers were suspended and one other was relieved from duty at the examination hall. Even, the MCQ (multiple choice questions) part of Bengali second paper examination under the Jashore Education Board was cancelled due to the distribution of wrong set of question papers in Narail. We always have observed such sorts of incidents during the public examinations.

Although the exam started at 10.00am on the previous occasions, it started at 11.00am this time considering traffic congestion. The students were asked to be at the examination centres 30 minutes prior to the start of the exam. However, the students did not have to suffer much to reach respective centres despite huge traffic.

The Uttara police station under the Dhaka Metropolitan Police have (DMP) launched a special service named ‘Police Support for the Examinees’. Police have provided various services under this initiative, including quickly bringing the admit cards of the examinees in case someone forgot about it and taking students to the right examination centre on motorcycle in case they reached the wrong centre. It is obviously a commendable act. Others may follow this example as well.

This is the second time that the students sat for the SSC exams after the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.  The number of examinees registered for the SSC examination this time was more than two million. However, just over 1.95 million students sat for the exams on the first day. The absence of a total of 33,860 examinees on the first day is quite alarming.

According to a report of the Directorate of Secondary & Higher Education, more than 475,000 students were absent during the annual examination at secondary level. Of them, 47,000 were victims of early marriage and some 78,000 got involved in child labour. This report cannot be said to be complete because, out of 20,294 secondary schools, some 11,679 provided information regarding this.

Although the government launched public examinations in the fifth and eighth grade, SSC is still considered the first public exam in reality. Absence of examinees after registering means the end of their academic career. Absence due to illness is a different issue and this was not the case for most of the around 34,000 absentees. A number of educational institutions could not run their regular activities amid the pandemic situation. Many had married off their daughters at an early age due to poverty or had sent their son to work.

It is essential to ensure that the students, who have registered for the SSC exam after passing the nine steps of education, must attend the exam. The teachers and the education department have some responsibilities in this regard as well as the guardians. Concerned people should be more vigilant to ensure that not a single student drops out at primary and secondary level in future. Although we have largely overcome the coronavirus pandemic, it will take time to recover fully from its impact on our education. Sustainable initiatives are required for that and people should come forward to implement those initiatives.