The Primary Education Completion (PEC) examination will be held in late November or early December with a curtailed syllabus if the Covid-19 situation improves, according to the state minister for primary education.
"We have made all preparations for holding the PEC examinations," Md Zakir Hossain, State Minister for Primary and Mass Education Ministry, told a press conference at the Secretariat on Monday.
However, educationists have advocated for measures aiming at checking overall dropouts and recovering learning losses instead of revving up for the PEC test.
At the press conference, the state minister was asked about whether there will be final examinations for other grades under the primary level this year. "Of course, it will be on the basis of the rearranged syllabi," he replied.
When Zakir Hossain was asked whether the examinations will be held on all six subjects, he said, "It will depend on the virus situation. If the situation allows, all six exams will be taken. We have made preparations."
All educational institutions were shuttered in March last year following the Covid-19 outbreak in Bangladesh.
As the virus situation showed no sign of improvement, PEC for fifth graders, Junior School Certificate (JSC) and Junior Dakhil Certificate (JDC) for eight graders, and final exams for other grades were not held last year. Students were promoted automatically.
With the virus situation improving, the government recently announced the reopening of primary, secondary and higher secondary educational institutions on 12 September after a prolonged closure for nearly one and a half years.
Under the reopening plan, fifth graders will have to attend classes physically every day. Candidates for Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) for this and next year will also have in-person classes every day. In-person classes for other grades will be once a week.
The education ministry has issued a 19-point health guideline, which includes for students mandatory mask wearing, maintaining a three-foot distance and hand washing before attending classes.
Education specialists said the Primary and Mass Education Ministry must concentrate on recovering learning losses, checking dropouts and ensuring quality education instead of being too obsessed with arranging the PEC examination.
"There is no need to hold the PEC examination. It creates a huge burden on students," Professor Siddiqur Rahman, former director of the Institute of Education and Research (IER) at Dhaka University, told The Business Standard.
He suggested that the primary education ministry take up a long-term plan to recover the learning gap.
Dr Manzoor Ahmed, professor emeritus of Brac University, said a maximum number of students, especially in rural areas, did not take part in online or television classes. They were almost away from studies for a long time.
"The Primary and Mass Education Ministry should prepare a list of students with potential dropout chances to chart out measures aimed at saving their academic life. Otherwise, the country will have to suffer for a long time," he sounded a note of caution.
Prof Manzoor Ahmed said, "I do not know why the ministry is making too much fuss about a fruitless examination when it is set to confront numerous challenges in the days ahead."