Current exams distort learning,

Current exams distort learning,

Current exams distort learning,

The sense of joy which the option is supposed to have brought, at least for now, would be limited to students of CBSE-affiliated schools in the country – most students attend schools affiliated to the State Boards – and those among them who would like to continue in the same schools for their Classes XI-XII (if they attend senior secondary schools). One group of students, in fact the majority at the secondary stage even in CBSE-affiliated schools, who cease their formal education on completing their Class X do not figure in the exercise at all. They would, most certainly, continue to be ‘crushed under exam stress’.
There is a whole lot of other issues, the nitty-gritty of it so to say, that the announcement is silent about.

Classes IX-X and XI-XII are two very different stages in the school system – the former forms the last two years of general education with an undifferentiated curriculum and the latter marks the beginning of optional and elective courses for the student to choose from. Will students who continue in the same school and not take the Class X exam be able to opt for courses they choose to pursue? In the existing system, the school authorities decide for them what to or not to study, basing their decision on the exam marks. A student who is denied a particular stream in her school can try to get it in another school but that option would be closed now.

There are many schools that do not offer a large number of courses at all – for example, many ‘good’ schools, including most Project schools, do not have most of the social science courses (they teach only ‘useful subjects’) - and if a student in these schools decides to study non-‘useful’ subjects (when she has moved to Class XI), she obviously cannot do so in her school and she cannot go to another school because she had not taken the Class X exam.

Don’t distort curriculum
There is one problem that would be further aggravated when the decision on Class X exam is implemented. It is generally known, but rarely mentioned in polite circles, that in ‘good’ schools, the curriculum for Class IX is given perfunctory attention by the school authorities and a part of the Class IX year is spent on teaching the Class X curriculum. There is no public exam for Class IX  and the Class X CBSE exam is based entirely on the Class X curriculum.

Similarly, there is no public exam at the end of Class XI and the Class XII exam is based exclusively on the Class XII curriculum with the same consequence for the Class XI curriculum. The decision not to have an exam at the end of Class IX (and Class XI) and to have the Class X and Class XII exams based only on Class X and Class XII curriculum was taken in order to reduce the burden of exams, not to distort the process of curriculum transaction. The present decision will make it possible at least for ‘good’ schools who turn out high performers to get much more school time to ensure that their wards do even better in their Class XII exam. This is not to suggest that the present system should be changed but to think of ways and means to ensure that the implementation of the school curriculum is not distorted under the guise of reform.

Guidelines exist
There is much that is wrong with the examinations and in the system that has given it the predominance in the educational system. The examinations distort the process of learning and are often subversive of the objectives of the curriculum. The National Policy on Education (1986), ignored when not violated since the late 1990s, laid down broad guidelines for its reform.

It stated:“8.23: Assessment of performance is an integral part of any process of learning and teaching. As part of sound educational strategy, examinations should be employed to bring about qualitative improvements in education.

“8.24: The objective will be to recast the examination system so as to ensure a method of assessment that is a valid and reliable measure of student development and a powerful instrument for improving teaching and learning; …” It recommended the preparation of a National Examination Reform Framework “to serve as a set of guidelines to the examining bodies which would have the freedom to innovate and adapt the framework to suit the specific situations”.

This was about a quarter century ago but the Framework is still awaited. The ‘optional’ announcement only complicates further the already bad situation.

(The writer if former professor of History, NCERT)

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