for it is in the minds of men and women that the defences of peace and the conditions for sustainable development must be built. ~UNESCO

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

BCSEA EVALUATION: An Unjust Guilty Event

As I inscribe every word of this essay, a shudder runs down my spine. I think of the frowns on the faces of many concerned people. The biggest guilt of a teacher writing on a teacher’s ineptitude surely pulls me down.  Nevertheless, I am sharing an experience of great importance and mind you, before you draw any conclusions, I confess that I am a very inexperienced teacher. So it can be my incompetence that led to the birth of this article.

Education is an important element of life. It surely does magic. Assessment is a tool and every child takes a course of evaluations and assessment during their entire education. Examination is the apex of judgment in Bhutanese schools. The word itself makes students jump off their normal stance. Exam results decide the promotion to the next higher grade. It has its own flaws, yet it has been a tool to measure a student’s achievement. Mid-term exams, Trial exams, Annual exams and of course- the Board Exams are the main exams that Bhutanese schools institute. My concern here is not with exam (if you want such an article, I recommend RK Narayan’s  beautiful essay). The question here is whether we are doing justice to students who sat for the board exams, Class X and XII. I experienced a bitter practice at the BCSEA evaluation camp at Punakha.  I had multitude of interpretations and conclusions.

The evaluation camp is a sought after activity by teachers all over, for various means. It is an active engagement for teachers during the long winter break, a noble service and money matter is also a factor, honestly. But as far as my littlest experience, I feel a lack of integrity. I do not generalize here. Frankly speaking, the assessment deed of English papers is a grave concern.  The chief marker leads the group with a huge pile of thousands of papers. Our red pens are mightier than the swords.

I have seen and experienced that AVERAGE marking is the best policy, contradicting the philosophy of honesty. Let me be straight- for instance, the questions weighs 20 marks and you mark it in the range of 9-14, then you are okay and there is no more talk of the particular question or paper. The problem is that the marks are awarded regardless the student’s actual answer. This practice surely benefits the weaker students. There are many reasons for the average thing. The case scenario is that if you read the answer diligently and award the deserved mark, there are more chances of the paper coming back to you for RECHECKING. And this is a deadly word where time is precious and the number of papers to be evaluated is great. I am very sure of this practice and the very reason made me promise to never attend the camp in future. I feel guilty.

Examination is a means to measure and award a child. If we are not serious with it, there is a visible sign of a negative stimulus. Fastness is also a factor in the camp. The faster you are when you blindly scratch and award an average mark or simply give a mark out of the air. When you are fast, you get time to talk with your new found colleagues and you can get some time to freshen up.  There is time for everything except the marking.

One interesting scene and factor is the longest break of the day- lunch break. The last minutes before the break are the blindest moment. It is the time where a student can get extra lucky or be very unlucky. The markers are in a dash to be out and enjoy the hour long recess. So, you can get 19 on 20 for a silly answer or be cursed with 10 on 20 for a very good response. This is the truth and we must accept it. I reflect on my school days and realized that our statement, Luck is an important factor for your result, is true. No wonder that we took pain to hoist luck fostering flags or visit Dechen phu.

The job of a teacher is noble. When you mark an answer script without considering the fairness or content and you flow with the event, waiting for the last bundle to complete and the last day to come; Is it noble? Apart from the main problems, we, unknowingly, commit a lot of sin during the entire camp. A global warming essay which has been misunderstood with warming up in relation to sports fetches 16 marks on 20 whereas a similar low quality essay fetches 5 marks. I am no position to talk of the chief marker’s responsibilities but I think they play a role in strict monitoring.   

Manpower and management go hand in hand for a successful output, I suppose.  According to my little knowledge, the number of markers is the cause of 90% of the flaws. There are thousands of papers and limited markers. Markers are given portions which are quite high which can make us make mistakes or play the tricks. The ants can be an example (not their load bearing capacity). Mind you, the evaluations go on for weeks. Strict management is also an extra point. The chief markers should be vigilant and consistent.

When we sit down at the first day of the evaluation, we bow to be honest and fair, like every teacher does. The days go on and answers are within our reach. We go on being unfair upon unjust upon unwarranted. Rarely do we reflect and check on ourselves. We flow with the wind. The tragedy is that, we become more accustomed to being markers than being responsible. There is very thought that we are playing with the child’s future.

From my incompetence, I have poured out a lot of feelings which I beg pardon. But I do not understand and I also understand. A child is at a crossroad when he is in class X or XII. A good student might feel disheartened to see his performance or a poor child (passing the grade) may face serious problems of comprehension in the next higher level. There are children from various backgrounds. Students who can afford are less affected but our deeds can make education THE END for some portion of students. Pass percentages and best performing schools will come up, but how fair will that be. Students have started to know the magic formula of the board exams and this is a difficult case to deal in everyday teaching-learning. The talk in the students’ air- we will pass if we are lucky; we always get good CA marks from our home schools; if we refer and solve some past papers, it surely helps us pass; Somewhat we will get through because… The strictness we maintain and award the CA goes into the drains and our heartfelt lessons and attempts to nurture are mere puppets in the hands of the SOLVED BOARD PAPERS and the PCA case. I feel that there is a need to review the whole thing. Winter evaluation camps have been conducted for a long period in the history and I don’t blame or generalize.

It may be that I was unlucky and these mind-boggling events took life when I attended the camp.

I beg forgiveness if this essay has hurt anyone’s sentiment. My stupidity is my curse. I am just being honest and hoping for the best alternative. Your comments and wisdom would surely light my darkness.


  1. My hats off to you la all my teachers. Since the future of we the students solely lie in the hands of our evaluators, I would like to request all our evaluators to award the marks according to the answer written by us. We want a fair marking system la.

  2. I have never been to the correction camp in the last six years of my career, and I will never go because I never believed in exam as the ultimate assessment. From your first hand account I am further shocked that students have to go through much more than test...they need luck, perhaps I now understand why my marks were as they were lol.

  3. I admire your courage and I mean it. I just want to ask: Who/What is to be blamed for the "unjust event"?

  4. If there have been lapses as you put it, Sonam, then the markers, chief markers, moderators and supervisors are equally responsible and accountable for it.

  5. Hmm..that is quite revealing and i guess the tip of the iceberg! I would gladly like to collaborate with you on this topic. But honestly, wasn't this topic like showing off your own wounds?(I feel guilty as well!!)

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  7. no hard feelings, its like a journey and am sure people are working hour to make things better only, nobody in the system may say, let student loose, let them disqualify and so on....its a dynamic process and change will happen, even i am not too much for examination.There is a big question whether our assessment tools really test the students competencies?......pray that, everyone be open to change, instead of being in comfort zones..........ya, well gud article

  8. Thanks for the inspiring comments. I was just trying to drop a pebble in a mighty ocean.

  9. You sound sorry that you wrote this essay calling yourself stupid. I think you shouldn't be. You wrote the truth. From one teacher to another teacher my sentiments are with you.

  10. It happens like that more oft than not,dear sir, therefore it's not a news altogether; for,they say, it's not a news when a dog bites a man, but when a man bites that rather unruly quadruped, it indeed is (a news worth publishing in the new york times). I'm a student with terrible xii marks and am here at least to appreciate your incorruptible honesty.