The government of Bangladesh introduced assignment as a tool of learning and assessment during Covid-19 pandemic when there was no opportunity to organize on-campus educational activities. Although the provision of assignment was there in the national curriculum 2012, its use in the educational institutions was limited. During Covid-19 pandemic, assignments were considered the only all-reach strategy of learning and assessment as a big number of learners and different areas throughout the country remained out of the Internet coverage. Even though there was Internet coverage in some areas, many students reported that they did not have gadgets. Therefore, giving assignments were the only way to keep the learners active in learning and to promote them to the next grades. It should be made clear what assignment is. It is a piece of work that is given to someone as part of their job or as a part of a course of study is called an assignment (Longman, 2009).
Assignment is used to assess students’ learning or achievement in a certain program. It is important to note that although assignment is a well-known strategy of teaching, learning, and assessment, in most cases, limited use of assignment is seen at the secondary level of education around the world. However, assignment is used as a tool of learning and assessment of students at tertiary level of education throughout the world. Bangladesh government used assignments as there was no scope to organize teaching-learning activities and year final examinations due to the Covid-19 pandemic during 2020, 2021, and 2022 academic years.
Other areas the study tried to explore included what teachers and students understood by assignment; usefulness of assignments as a tool of assessment; quality of the assignments given by DSHE (Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education); the challenges to implementing the assignments; and the ways to consider assignments as a tool of assessment even after the Covid-19 is over. The selected five secondary schools included government, non-government and private schools. The researchers carefully chose the schools so that it included rural, urban, boys, girls, and co-education schools. All the findings of the study are not being presented here in details. A thought-provoking aspect of the findings is being presented in the following sections.
The major findings of the study included teachers and students had fairly good understanding of assignments; assignments were useful during Covid-19 standstill; the assignments lacked higher order thinking opportunity; the major challenges were understanding the assignments, copying from others, getting the assignments done by others, assignments were available in the Internet. The study revealed that assignments could be continued in normal situation by minimizing the number of assignments and giving the school authority responsibility to set the assignment based on the level of their students. Moreover, plagiarism should strictly be checked and students should be provided with feedback for development. The report in details is available at NAEM library as the study was conducted under the auspices of NAEM. The interested readers can read the full report from the NAEM website.
The findings that seemed innovative to the researchers are placed in the following lines. The findings which could also be useful to better implement the experiential learning curriculum which is going to be implemented in Bangladesh from 2023. The research participants suggested that along with written assignments, some practical tasks can be given to students. Those hands on activities can include singing the national anthem and other patriotic songs; reciting a particular poem from a list; taking care of an ill member of the family or relatives; delivering a speech in English or Bangla; anchoring a program; acting or dramatizing a historical event; sowing a seed, taking care of the seedling and the plant, and then writing about the process of the plant’s growth; interviewing a famous person and writing a report; visiting a place and writing about it; writing a fiction based on the history of the country, etc. The items mentioned and similar others can be used for assignments as experiential learning curriculum attaches more importance to ‘doing’ than ‘knowing’ because many students know many things but most of them are unable to perform. The ability to do is more important than knowing in real life.
The stated alternatives emerged from the study; these are not the researchers’ own opinions. If the recommendations can be implemented, the assignments can work as a better way of learning and assessment in the country. The stated kinds of doings are also expected to improve the quality of education in the country.
(The writer is an Associate Professor at Govt. Teachers’ Training College, Dhaka and an educational researcher)