An idea before its time?

STARTING TROUBLE

It has been two years since Kapil Sibal made his intentions clear about reforms in education. Some decisions have already been put to action.  One such contentious decision has been the scrapping of the class 10th Board and making it an ‘on demand’ test for the students. In conjunction with this has been the introduction of CCE, which has brought in the grading system into the schools. As in the case of any policy change the different stakeholders have reacted in widely diverging ways. Maybe this is just the time of transition. The dust will settle down in the years to come.

The school system has primarily three stakeholders — children, teachers (school) and the parents. The   convergence of opinions of all these groups is pretty difficult. Every one has a different viewpoint to this decision. Here are some of the reactions — “It is a really significant reform”; “It will definitely help de-stress students”; “The grading system is no good. How can we equate a 100 marks with 95 marks?”; “Isn’t it going to become a difficult task for students to face the class 12th Board without any prior experience?”; “I am so relieved!!” All of these are genuine reactions of various stakeholders. It is difficult to argue that one is less relevant than the other.

Personally, I believe this decision to scrap the Boards shall leave its positive impact on the system over a period of time. Here are some of the reasons why I think so.

One: There is no reason to feel aggrieved by the decision to scrap the class 10th Board. The CBSE has given options for schools and students to choose what is convenient for them.  Moreover, a credible CCE is a far more representative assessment than the boards. Of course, there is no doubt that an external assessment makes the Boards a fairly big landmark to surpass. I think there is no other value beyond this.  Other than the top 20% of the students in the school, most others would welcome the move to scrap the test. For the top 20% the board is a means of proving their competence (ironically, they also hate it for the ‘mug up and reproduce’ nature of the Board exams). CBSE is conducting a proficiency test in Maths, Science and Social sciences. The test is challenging even for students at the top. Schools must enroll for this test to put to rest the “benchmarking by a neutral examiner” argument.

Two: I think Board exams distort the learning pace of students. The syllabus design for class 10th is meant to ensure that the maximum number of people pass the Boards. So accordingly the class 10th syllabus is far less challenging than the class 9th syllabus. So when the student passes the class 10th, class 11th stands like a tall and steep mountain.  So there is a possibility that in the steady state when it is an accepted thing, the NCERT would think of normalising the syllabus and making the learning gradient far more friendly to the students.

Three: The system of assessments in most schools is fairly uni-dimensional.  The emphasis is so much on marks that many schools have forgotten that there lies something beyond the text books that kids need to explore. A shift towards all inclusive assessments will not happen unless it is explicitly mentioned in the assessment guidelines.  So I think the CCE is a small step forward. It is a challenge for schools to implement. There is no doubt about it. This is where CBSE can support schools with resources. School administrations would also have to think of training to bring about this significant change in the academics. Just as kids learn, so would the schools after a bit of struggle.

In all these I believe there is a possibility of adding more value to what happens in a school, if some or all of the intents in the policy come to fruition. There is a caveat here. If schools find it difficult to roll out a credible CCE the idea of scrapping the Boards would be defeated. In all this the student must definitely not get the idea that no Boards means “no hardwork”. Infact, for the teachers it is definitely more work.  And if the idea of CCE has to meet its stated goals, the teachers have to make it happen. Else all of these would meet the same fate as, the ‘great idea - poor execution’ phenomenon that we are so used to in India. 

(The writer is Academic Director, Career Launcher)

DEBATE: What do you think about CBSE’s exam-on- demand system? Is it a great idea that’s come before its time? Are the challenges students, parents and teachers talk about merely teething trouble? Or do you detect serious flaws in the concept itself? We’d like to hear what you think. Do send us your responses to the debate to dheducation@deccanherald.co.in, in not more than 250 words. Responses must reach us before March 17, 2011. We will be publishing a few select responses in a subsequent issue of DHEducation.

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