A similar approach followed in the USA, Canada, Australia, and the UK for the last 20 years or more. Certainly, it is a good beginning, but we need to ensure that our students are properly assessed and for which our teachers are adequately trained with professionalism and ethics. Now if the country has to be successful in implementing the new curriculum, we require to follow the underlying policies and practices of these countries already implemented otherwise this transformation may end up with no or even worse outcomes.
Two types of assessment are relevant on today’s topic – first, formative assessment that monitors learning progress during instruction and provides continuous feedback to both students and teacher, for example, quiz, assignment, project, mid-term (not in a formal way), etc. Second, summative assessment takes place at the end of a course or a unit of instruction that is used traditionally for certifying people, for instance, semester final exam.
Most of the educational institutions in the developed world focus on formative assessment whereas we are highly dependent on summative exam, which is founded on bad habits such as rote learning and regurgitation. We must replace it with an assessment methodology that is real-time, performance-based and formative.
There is a range of policies and/or practices absent in Bangladesh, which requires immediate attention of our policymakers and other stakeholders for successful implementation of the new curriculum:
a. Each and every university in the developed world has a School of Education or Faculty of Education or Graduate School of Education that can only produce teachers for primary, secondary and higher secondary levels. These institutions are basically focus on three areas – Bachelor and Masters in Early Childhood, Primary Education, and Secondary & Higher Secondary Education. While studying in other programs students pay $30-50K tuition fees per year, these programs are funded by the Government. In Bangladesh, there are few related institutions, but their objectives are not fully aligned with the good universities, particularly in today’s blended, online and digital learning era.
b. The school/institute/faculty of education is mainly focused on innovative teaching, learning and assessment methods rather than on course contents or even subject matter expertise. It implies their attention on how to teach instead of what to teach. For instance in the Australian universities, Master of Teaching in Secondary Education comprises 16 courses with 10 core courses, 02 professional practice courses of 60 days in school settings and 04 courses in two specialized areas from Science, Math, IT, Visual Art, LOTE, etc. Their core courses include 06 courses on Curriculum and Pedagogy – Foundations, Planning, Assessment, Major Spec Area, Minor Spec Area and Learning Project plus Child and Adolescent Development, Culture Studies, Teachers as Leaders and Entrepreneurial Thinkers, Inclusive Education, etc. Now just compare it with what our teachers study in their Masters – a big shift.
Traditional assessment fails teachers as much as students, by stunting their creativity and growth
c. A graduate having Bachelor, Masters and PhD in Physics will never get the opportunity to teach physics in the primary, secondary and higher secondary levels in the developed countries until s/he has a teaching qualification such as Master of Teaching with extensive professional practices in schools. In Bangladesh, a fresh graduate can be a teacher that never happens in the developed countries, though we have few related programs but those are not fully aligned to the current global context and practices.
d. People may inquire why a university graduate will work as a teacher in the primary or secondary levels. The developed countries consider the HSPE teachers are equal to the university teachers in terms of respect and honorarium, which needs to be ensured in Bangladesh.
e. The teachers in the developed countries require professional licensing and police clearance. Any academic misconduct, sexual harassment, violation in professionalism and ethics, etc. are treated as offence and if convicted are never allowed to get license and thus, teaching at any levels.
f. An often-overlooked component is the teachers themselves; traditional assessment fails teachers as much as students, by stunting their creativity and growth. Just as students require personalised content and assessment, so too do teachers with regards to their training and capacity-development. How is a student to be equipped with the necessary skills if the teacher tasked with doing so is not empowered with the same? Teachers need the important skills of collaboration, peer-learning, critical thinking and appropriate learning pedagogy. (Anir Chowdhury, 2021)
g. In the World Economic Forum 2021, Anir Chowdhury, Policy Adviser of a2i outlines that educating without knowing if the students have learnt anything is an exercise in futility. We must assess, yes, but change the way in which we have been doing so to date. Traditionally, assessment has been a one-size-fits-all system. Instead, we need to consider areas such as: the student’s willingness to learn, her desire to use knowledge practically, her intent to communicate and collaborate with peers, and her ingenuity in thinking and applying this knowledge to problem-solving. It is difficult to measure these aspects using summative exams. But innovative formative assessments could be the viable options for assessing these parameters of the 21st-century skills.
Preparedness of students, teachers, institutions locally and nationally are required before the full-fledged implementation of the new curriculum. The traditional education system is obsolete, so as the assessment strategy. 21st-century skills require a 21st-century education system. Based on this concept, I designed and initiated Bachelor in ICT Education at Bangabandhu Digital University and proposed Master of Teaching in Digital Education at Daffodil International University. Graduates of this type of programs could play a major part in reforming the curriculum at different levels and therefore, should be promoted across the country. The proposed HSPE curriculum with predominantly formative strategy is a bold initiative for building a solid foundation of our future generations but it could lead to a disastrous outcome if not carefully planned, designed and executed.
* Md Aktaruzzaman is Director, Blended Learning Centre, Daffodil International University and Founding Head of ICT and Education Dept(s), Bangabandhu Digital University