Approximately 300,000 kids sat for the Grade 5 exam at the end of August, Islandwide, which was conducted only in the Sinhala and Tamil mediums. It is NOT conducted in English! There are pass marks! For each district that are published and when the Student checks on line if he or she has passed, the result is a mark given out of 200 along with the words pass or fail.
In summary the pass mark ranges from 145 to 155 depending on the District, with the Colombo District usually commanding the higher pass mark. Only a little over 10% of students achieved this pass mark and it was no different to last year either. I saw an article saying that they will instead change the pass mark to 75 not to discourage students!
For a child in 5th grade to be told, (90% of students) that they had not passed is a very upsetting thing. It is not healthy for children at this age to be faced with such a prospect and affects their futures. I do not believe there is another country on the face of the earth that does this, and we have not even questioned this fact to date.
To recap, one needs that district designated pass mark to enter a National School in that district from grade 6 onwards. So it is just a scholarship exam, but is not treated as such amongst students, crammers and tutories and is a number, kids remember till their dying day. I know an adult who got 112 marks when the pass mark then in one’s district was 137 and he felt he was never good enough for studies, and mentally dropped out of study at that point, example of what happens!
There are schools where no one passes this mark. In other cases no Male student passes and only girls pass in the school. What does a boy then think of their gender? Not fit to study! Imagine the Teachers left to ponder this! Further the papers carried a story of two teachers engaged in a fist fight in the school due to different percentages in their different classes that passed this exam!
In other words there is no need to pass this exam if one is just going to the next class at the same school. However the new 1000 schools project is in the process of designating National Schools in each district, which will only be from Grade 6 onwards, taking the kids from Primary schools in the area that achieve this mark or more. The primary schools therefore only go up to grade 5. The other kids have to find a local school close to their homes, or go through a battle of money talks to get a kid into another preferred school if this is not of their choice.
Let us dump this, have a pass mark where 90% get through and a high mark just for the entrants to the limited number of National Schools. Better still do away with this exam, that stresses young minds too much.