By Saya U Maung Maung Win (M61)
In the examination system of the “old” (or “traditional”) system, every exam paper is scored using marks. The maximum possible marks is 100. The passing score is 40 marks. Less than that means the student’s performance was not satisfactory. For every exam paper there were two examiners. The first one sets questions for the paper. The examiner also provides answers and and a marking scheme specifying the marks for each step of the solution. Some papers offer choice, e.g. attempt 5 out of the 7 questions. Sometimes there is no choice that means all questions need to be attempted. After the examiner has graded a paper, the co-examiner has to recheck the grading using the marking scheme. If there is any differentiation and variation and discrepancy he could discuss with the examiner to have a resolution. For students with high performance scoring marks over 80, are marked distinction or credit after their names in exam result in that particular subject/course. Once there was no mistake/prejudice or bias and no foul play, both examiner and co-examiner signed the sheet and sent it to the head of the department for final assessment at moderation board. Accordingly all the other relevant papers were assessed in the same way. When all the marks for papers were complete, the moderation board comprising of heads of department, registrar and other members met at the specified date and time to give the final decision. If the student’s score is “border-line”, his/her fate depends on the mercy of the board. The decision of the board was final and pass/fail of the students was published accordingly.
With old system the percentage success rate was usually low not very encouraging. When the “new” system was introduced in late 64, the mark system was replaced by a grading system. The possible grades for each paper are 1 ,2, 3, 4 and 5 grades. Those who score all grade-5 are marked as top students with distinction/ credit in overall scores for all subjects/courses of that particular academic year. As the system was totally new to the staff members who were so familiar and used to the old mark system based on 100 marks to cover themselves in case of any dispute, they used the guide lines by grouping zero to 20 for grade 1, 21 to 40 for grade 2, 41 to 60 for grade 3, 61 to 80 for grade 4 and above 81 for grade 5. Hence most of the staff used the old system as a guide-line according to marks based on 100 and then grouping into grades according to marks scored by the students on each question as instructed by the superiors. For those who invented the system it looked so easy on their part but for each individual examiner it was rather difficult without any guide-lines to implement. For every exam paper we still have examiner and co-examiner to assess the knowledge and ability of the student. The minimum pass grade is 2 in each subject/course and his/her result would be assessed in the moderation board according to new board members. According to new system the percentage success rate was very high and encouraging.
New Position Created
I would like to mention again about the new position and appointment introduced of new staff in engineering departments with the introduction of the new system. With the old system the lowest position was Assistant Lecturer (A/L) appointed to those with Bachelor/ Masters degree on the pay scale of 350-25-700 but with the new system the new position called, ”Instructor” appointed to those with Bachelor/Masters degree with a pay scale of 350-25-500. Hence many got employed and each and every department became bigger and better in staff and strength. Also many joined as instructors as a stepping stone because as soon as they found better jobs outside they resigned and left the Institute.
New Intake of Students
With the old system the intake per year was never more than 150 in total. The break-down would typically be 50 Mechanical, 50 Civil, 40 Electrical, and 10 or less for other departments like Chemical, Textiles, Mining, Metallurgy and Architecture. With the new system the students intake is much increased up to 500+ annually. The break-down would typically be 150 Mechanical, 150 Civil, 125 Electrical, and 30 or less for other departments like Chemical, Textiles, Mining, Metallurgy and Architecture.
Grapevine says that a US professor was startled when a Burmese student proudly claimed that he had all-round Ds [for distinctions] back in Burma. In the US : “D” means grade 1 (lowest), and “A” means grade 4 (highest).
The moderation system may have changed over the times. In the initial stages of the new education system, a student must have at least 75% attendance; otherwise s/he cannot take the examinations. Getting a grade 1 in any subject means failing the whole examination. To pass the examination, each paper must have at least a grade 2, and the average grade must be at least 2.5. Some professors are not keen on making too many moderation. Some alums got penalized for “not taking minor subjects seriously”.
In ’64, there were three intakes. About 500 students were admitted to the first ever 1st B.E. Also, their admission was based not on total marks, but on the controversial ILA (Intelligence Level Aggregate), using the “distribution curve” for each subject. About 350 students were admitted to the first ever 2nd B.E. About 200 students were admitted to the first ever 3rd. B.E. As Saya U Myo Myint Sein (A) mentioned Saya Sai Yee Laik (A68) stood “first and last in his class”.
In the “newest” education system, a student needs 5 years to get a B.E. S/he gets an AGTI after the first two years, and a B.Tech after another two years.
The terms “old” and “new” are relative.
- We took the last ever 7th std Government exam in ’60. The “new” system had 8th std Government exam.
- We took the first ever High School Final only (Ninth Standard Government exam) in March ’62 with the security forces patrolling the city. The exam results were annulled, and we were asked to take another exam a few months later. In the “old” system, the students take the High School Final and Matriculation combined exam.
- We took the first ever Matriculation only (Tenth Standard Government exam) in May ’63.
- Consequently, those who were one year senior to us in High School graduated two years ahead of us. We essentially lost a year.
Grapevine says that in an “old, old” system [following second world war], anyone who is confident can [take “jump promotions” and] take the HSF and Matriculation exam. The “old” Rangoon University allowed “compartmental” system. One needs to re-sit only the subjects that one failed (in the first examination – usually in March) in the “supplementary” examination – usually in June. One caveat is that those who apply for scholarships and stipends must pass all subjects in the first examination.
Sayagyi U Ba Toke did not take the first examination because he was in a college strike camp. He was the sole student to take and pass all subjects in the supplementary examination. Without access to scholarship/stipend and with persuasion from the Mathematics teachers, he struck off the choice of becoming an engineer. For details, read the book by Saya Dr. Khin Maung Swe (“Maung Thinchar”, son-in-law of Arzani Mahn Ba Khaing).