Policy versus ground reality: secondary English language assessment system in Bangladesh

Das, Sharmistha; Shaheen, Robina; Shrestha, Prithvi; Rahman, Arifa and Khan, Rubina (2014). Policy versus ground reality: secondary English language assessment system in Bangladesh. Curriculum Journal, 25(3) pp. 326–343.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09585176.2014.909323


Any policy reform in education is highly effective when it is planned and implemented ‘holistically’ and yet, it is the most challenging way forward. Many countries in Asia have reformed their English language policies and syllabi in the last two decades due to the increasing value of the language worldwide. Motivated by a ‘communicative approach’ to English language teaching, Bangladesh was one of the countries that launched such a reform in the 1990s. However, this reform has been criticised for imposing the changes on teachers without preparing them sufficiently. More importantly, there is limited evidence as to how much the secondary English language assessment system is aligned with the changes introduced in the curriculum. In order to explore this gap, a medium-scale study was conducted in 38 secondary schools in Bangladesh, following a mixed methods approach. The findings highlighted a ‘mismatch’ between the intended English language learning outcomes and current assessment practices, including the resulting challenges faced by the teachers. This paper argues that language education reform is likely to fail if the assessment system is not aligned with the curriculum.

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