Educational reform is currently underway in Bangladesh, as demonstrated through the recent revision of the curriculum across all subjects at both primary and secondary levels. Along with newly revised textbooks and other supplementary materials, assessment of English needs to be revised in order to align the targeted learning outcomes of the curriculum.
At this key juncture, with changes underway in both textbook and assessment reform, the British Council Bangladesh participated, as collaborating partner, in a policy seminar on ‘Assessment of English language skills in the primary and secondary education sectors in Bangladesh’ hosted by the English in Action (EIA) Project, the Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) and the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) in March 2014.
The aim of the seminar was to explore the nature of assessment reforms that will best support the communicative English language teaching and learning promoted by the government of Bangladesh, and how these might be effectively implemented. It brought together representatives from primary and secondary education sectors, government officials and the donor community, as well as local and international English language assessment experts. Mr. S.M. Ashraful Islam, Additional Secretary of Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, Ms. Sarah Cooke, Country Representative of DFID, Mr. Shyamal Kanti Ghosh, Director General of DPE, Prof. Md. Shafiqur Rahman, Chairman of NCTB and Dr. Johan Bentinck, Team Leader, EIA were among the speakers. All speakers stressed the importance of English assessment reform in primary and secondary education sectors in Bangladesh.
There were international and national sector experts from Delhi University, India, the Open University, UK, UNICEF, the British Council, NCTB, DPE and National Academy for Primary Education (NAPE) who presented at the seminar.
The focus of current assessment is predominantly reading and writing skills, rather than the speaking and listening skills which are considered core skills of English language. As a result, there is little or no practice of speaking and listening skills in classroom teaching and learning. At the seminar, the British Council presented a mobile application on assessment of English language that has been developed as an alternative tool for assessing the English speaking and listening skills of primary students of Bangladesh. The test items of the app are closely linked with the competencies of the national curriculum. The test result indicate to what extent students have achieved the English competencies of the primary curriculum after completing each cycle.
The participants in the seminar came to a consensus that the mobile app for English language skills assessment could provide a standardised test across the country. It was recommended that the app should be included during the yearly national assessment survey of primary education to assess standards of English education.