GCE O/L: No more ‘Pass or Fail’ exam | Sunday Observer

GCE O/L: No more ‘Pass or Fail’ exam

6 November, 2016

The GCE O/L Examination will no longer be a strictly “pass or fail” exam which decides on the students’ higher educational prospects – instead, it will promote students to the next class in accordance with the new education system which the government intends to introduce. Education will be compulsory until year 13 under this initiative.

Elaborating on the proposal Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said: “The students will be promoted to the next class after they sit the O/L exam. A few subjects will be made compulsory for those who intend to enter University after the A/L examination. Every student will remain in school after the O/L examination. It is a part of the Government’s plan to reduce the burden of examinations on students,” he said.

He said that the US which is the most powerful county in the world does not have any examinations in their education system and that we too have to adopt a similar system.

Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Sunil Hettiarachchi said, “At present we are unable to expose the status of the new concept. We are still discussing and developing proposals so the details are not yet finalised. We will be having a meeting this month after November 20, 2016 and plan to officially inaugurate the proposed new concept with the Prime Minister.”

A highly placed source from the National Institute of Education said that they are still writing the curricula and the finalised curricula will be out by April next year. It will be presented to the Prime Minister before implementation as it is his concept. “We are having meetings in the curriculum departments and it will take some time to finalise. The implementation will be in 2018. The new modules are under preparation and seven applied subjects will be introduced as vocational modules. Students from rich families will go to pursue higher studies even after they fail O/Ls but the poor cannot. Though some children cannot get through science and Maths, there are hidden talents in them and we are trying to bring them out,” the source said.

General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin said, “As a union we cannot go against any decision made to limit the number of days a child goes to school. This year around 400,000 to 500,000 students sat the O/Ls and to give them a continuous education, there is a need for human and other resources as well as a cohesive plan. As far as the union is aware, the education system in Sri Lanka is lacking all three. The budget allocation for education last year was Rs185.9 billion and this year it is Rs76.9 billion which clearly shows us that it has been reduced by Rs109 billion. If the government is planning to give further education, the budget should be more. If there is no cohesive plan and discussions, it will disrupt the education system.”

“The government has said that they are going to make a large number of changes in the education system but despite that teachers and school Principals who run the education system along with the union has not been called for any discussions regarding any matters. Discussions are important to decide how practical the new decisions are. The new concept is not a bad thing and at the same time education officials should consult the other parties involved. This is a very dangerous turn of events. The previous government officials also worked in a high handed manner which affected the education system negatively,” Stalin said.

The Sunday Observer spoke to a cross section of people to get their views on the proposed new concept

Educationist, Ms Jezima Ismail said, “The proposed new education concept where the students can pursue a continuous education for 13 years is a good thing but I hope that there will be a kind of a certification process where children who do not want to go into the A/L and want to enter into other areas have a sort of certification which would give them admission to those areas.”

At the same time when you go into the A/L and everybody goes into it those qualified and those not qualified but have 13 years, the ones who have passed in certain subjects might have to enter into the academic stream and technical stream, whereas the other will do the vocational subjects. “In this instance, I hope that the curriculum will be revised, restudied not only by experts but by educationists as well,” she said.

“For example, History is a subject related to matters and wars but we never emphasise the role of History in nation building and ethnic harmony. Urgent attention should be paid to subjects as they do not become mere content but also has foundations of principles and philosophy. The 13 years of education leads students to not only being educated in an academic or intellectual fashion but also at the level of attitude and feelings so that they become fulfilled human beings”.

Sandali Liyanage, a government school teacher from Colombo said,

“Exams have been always challenging and perhaps stressing too. The O/L examination faced by a teenager is a turning point in their lives. All children are not the same. Every child born in this world defines a meaning, having a unique inborn talent which most of the parents and teachers fail to identify. There are fast learners and slow learners in any class attended by a teacher.

A good teacher who identifies a slow learner never ignores or punishes a slow learner. The teacher knows how to handle them in a proper manner. But once this child fails the public exam, the child will be mentally affected, struggling to face the world. And on the other hand a child who outshines in the class with different abilities sometimes fails to succeed in the exam.

Most of the time exams hide the talent of a child. Whatever said and done the society looks down on a child failed at the exams as incapable. Ultimately this ends with catastrophic tragedies such as suicides and the majority of them get psychologically affected.

And most of the children get addicted to various harmful behaviours once they are ignored by the society. As a teacher I believe the government’s new concept in which O/L is no more an exam but promotes students to the next class will definitely benefit the students and society.

Moreover this concept should be implemented in a different way. This idea should be explained to the children in a different manner. Once they get to know about this concept some of the fast learners might show less interest and be careless towards their studies as they know whether they pass or fail they could continue their higher studies so they might have a mindset which would not bring favourable results.”

Shakir Hussain, an advisor of Denuwara Zonal Education Office said, “I heard about the new concept over the media channels but we have not yet received any circulars or official documents. If there are changes in the education system it will be better because the students will be able to pursue the 13 years of education without a break. Each and every child’s IQ level differs so that is the reason for success or failures.There is no way the present education system addresses and looks into every child’s IQ level. If there is a change where every child gets an opportunity to continue education and if each and every child is looked equally without the IQ level coming as a barrier, it is better.”

Asuka Randeniya, a recent BA graduate from the University of Colombo said,

“I think that everyone should sit the O/Ls, no matter what their future plans, because as a nation we need the population to have some form of educational standard. However, I am opposed to the O/Ls being a basic qualification for everything after that. It should only be considered a qualification for those who wish to pursue higher education. For others who want to start working, start a business or gain vocational qualifications, O/Ls should not be a measure of intelligence or skill but more of an indicator that they have completed their secondary education, like the High School diplomas in the U.S. That way, only those interested in higher education and academics need to worry about “top marks” or “low marks”

Radhini Gawarammana, an A/L Arts student from Girls’ High School, Kandy said,

“As a student who sat the O/Ls in 2013, I believe that the government’s new concept lacks substance. What is the logic behind promoting students to a higher level of education by training them for eleven years to sit an exam where it does not matter if you pass or fail.

By doing this they are just increasing the rate of illiteracy in the country which I believe is a hindrance to the country’s socioeconomic development.

It is true that students who are keen on working hard will get through but teachers will have to waste considerable time teaching basics to the group of students who have got used to eleven years of sitting an exam where everyone is a winner.”

Adya Lakshmi, a parent from Kurunegala said,

“Every child does not have the same talent. Some children fail only in Maths while some others fail in more than five subjects including Maths. The new system will become a failure if those children are allowed to do the A/Ls The children who study will also find it difficult when weak children are put into those classes. Those days there were technological subjects from grade six onwards and if they could re-introduce it again it’s better. Subjects such as Home Science, Agriculture, Crafts, Handwork and Electronics are work oriented subjects where students could directly go in for employment. Technological subjects will provide the students with the technical skills. Students will be able to find technical solutions for real world problems.”

Shiyana Nasim, an A/L teacher from Girls’ High School, Kandy said:

“This concept is fine from the child’s psychological point of view when we consider personal emotions, how a child gets discouraged, deflated when the child has to get out from school after 0/Ls. The new concept will probably morally boost the child to remain in school but I do not think that our education system is still ready for this type of system.

When weak students go into the main stream of learning A/Ls, there are hindrances to the teaching - learning process as the O/L failure students are below average. It is up to the policy makers to make provisions for these students. Pushing the failures into the A/L class is not a solution but they should be provided with alternative courses by identifying their skills.

The government’s idea to encourage children and make them get on with life is appreciable but the question is whether it is the right thing for the present school education process. The school should cater to the needs of the Maths failures. The government has introduced IT, Media and few more languages but these subjects are novel and a child could even study within six months after school. Alternative vocational subjects should be introduced. A/Ls are competitive.

There are Maths failures in my school and even for the third time they have not passed. The child who studies well will take exams easy and not study when they know about the new concept. They might take O/Ls as another term test and children will lack interest. The credibility of O/Ls will also go down.”