The Bhutan Council for School Examinations and Assessment (BCSEA) board has decided to revoke its earlier decision of validating the English examination results based on the marks obtained in English Paper I.
It has instead decided that the BCSEA will evaluate the English II paper and award marks accordingly but will also impose severe penalties on those responsible for the paper leakage.
Meanwhile, the Board has directed the BCSEA to complete the investigation into the problem at the earliest, and also put into place the strictest of measures and mechanisms to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
In a release the BCSEA says that just like other options, though the recommended option too may not guarantee complete fairness and acceptability for all, the BCSEA Board felt it was comparatively a better option as it will at least ensure timely declaration and fairer exam results since the penalty will be meted out only to the individuals involved in the paper leakage.
This newspaper in its previous issue had written that the cabinet and the Prime Minister were in favor of the above option based on the meet the press with the cabinet.
The BCSEA’s original decision in 4th January 2015 of awarding the English I mark for English II faced massive public criticism especially from students and their parents. The cabinet then intervened and asked the BCSEA to reconsider.
In the last ‘meet the press’ the Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay has said there were three options before the BCSEA.
Lyonchhen said that one option was to use the English I marks for English II, the second was to redo the entire examinations, and the third option is to go ahead with the assessment and give marks to those students who had no access to the leaked questions.
While the PM seemingly presented all three options, he then methodically went about showing why the first two options were not desirable while indirectly endorsing the third option.
Meanwhile, the BCSEA Chairman who is the Education Minister Lyonpo Mingbo Dukpa sat a few seats away listening to the PM.
It is now clear that the cabinet’s ‘request’ was in effect to do away with an unpopular BCSEA decision and go instead with a more acceptable decision of going after the culprits and awarding everyone their original marks.
On the first option of giving English I marks for English II, Lyonchhen had said that even if the decision was technically sound it would forever create doubt in the minds of thousands of students that they could have done better, if they had got their original English II marks. He said that the decision had certain risks for affecting the lives of many children.
One the second option of redoing the exams the PM said that apart from the use of government resources it would be irresponsible for the government and BCSEA to ask students to travel back to their exam centers from all parts of the country.
The PM had pointed out that there is also a possibility that despite the best efforts of the government all students would not know about the re-examinations and so they could miss the crucial exams. He said it would be very difficult for students as they will have to go collect their text books and even if they have text books they may not have exercise books as they could have been thrown away to be recycled.
In what was an indirect support for the third option, the PM had said that first of all the whole paper was not leaked but it was only some questions leaked and secondly it was not widespread.
He said that if it was widespread then at least one parent, one student or one teacher would have informed. He said the possibility that the leaked questions had a huge impact on the results of the English II exam is very small.
However, he made it clear that regardless of the decision taken, the government was determined to find out each and every person involved in distribution of the questions and penalize them be they students, staff or teachers.
In response to a question at meet the press, the PM also gave a hint of the cabinet’s determination on the issue.’ The PM had said, “They have the liberty not to listen to our request and if they don’t listen then the cabinet has certain powers and we will be guided by that.”
The BCSEA in its release going into the background of the issue and decisions said that the Bhutan Higher Education Certificate (BHSEC-XII) 2014 Examination was conducted from November 29 to December 13, 2014.
Immediately after the completion of the last paper English II examination on 13th December 2014, rumors of the leaking of the English II question paper was reported to the BCSEA through the Supervising Examiner of the Drukgyel Higher Secondary School in Paro.
BCSEA immediately launched the investigation which confirmed that the English II Paper had indeed been leaked before the examination. The BCSEA then called for an Emergency Meeting of its Board on 4th January 2015. During the meeting, the Board looked at the four available options to urgently deal with the situation.
One was giving English Paper I mark for English II, second was identify the candidates who had access to leaked questions and take action as per BCSEA Exam Rules and Regulations, third option was conducting re-examination of English Paper II and fourth option was not to do anything.
After deliberating at length, the Board decided to base the validity of English exam results on Paper I marks as English I and II are complementary and has strong correlation, those good in Paper I are usually good in paper II and there would be no logistic or financial implications involved.
Accordingly, the BCSEA made a press release announcing the decision of the BCSEA Board as above to base the validity of English examination results on English Paper I marks. However, the BCSEA Board’s decision triggered strong reactions from some of the students and parents who said it would not be fair to base the English II exam results on the English Paper I marks.
Following this, the cabinet requested the BCSEA to reconsider its earlier decision and take some more time to study the situation carefully and resolve the problem with a more suitable option if available.
As requested by the cabinet, the BCSEA Board met for the 2nd time on 7th January 2015 and then came to the final decision.