Testing times are here again

Testing times are here again

Kriti is not an early riser. But these days her alarm goes off at 4 am. Anxiety and the pressure to do well give her sleepless nights.

Kriti is preparing for class 12 boards. Its her first attempt at the board examination. “I like studying during the day rather than at night as the memory is fresh in the morning. So you learn things by heart,” the 17-year-old says. “I like to sleep early during exams as it helps in retaining the lessons. I normally try to finish my syllabus before the exams and then start revision.”

She is following a strict regimen and avoids her favourite junk food. “I am not eating high calorie food as it makes me lazy,” Kriti says. She studies four hours at a stretch and then takes an hour's break. “During the break, I like to watch movies and listen to music as it helps me relax,” she says.
And her mother Subha says, “We have stopped going out as the exams are going on. We don’t want to disturb their studies and break their concentration,” says Kriti’s mother Subha. “We want to motivate them and offer our support when they are preparing for exams,” she adds.

This is the story of almost every student taking the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), both for classes 10 and 12. The exams are not only stressful for the kids, but for the parents as well.

But since the CBSE initiated examination reforms and made class 10 boards optional in 2011, the examination fever has been less severe. Some teachers. However,  have a new grouse: the new system has made children laid-back.

The CBSE’s innovation, Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE), is for classes 6 to 10. Under it, the kids take multiple tests throughout the year contrary to the traditional three-hour paper at the end of the session. The USP of this pattern is that the syllabus once covered is not repeated.

But the catch is children who opt for boards have to go through the CCE pattern throughout the year, which carries 70 per cent weightage out a total of 100 marks. So the board examination is worth 30 per cent.

For all practical purposes, the new evaluation system has made boards in class 10 redundant. The class 12 boards are another story altogether.

“The CBSE is trying to phase out boards. They have planned the new system in such a way,” says Rahul Singhal who teaches Geography at Salwan Public School in Rajinder Nagar.

“There are two written tests under the CCE, one at the mid-term and the other at the end of the session. Students who opt for boards take the board exam at the end of the session while others sit for the test under the CCE,” he adds. “The second written under the CCE carries 30 per cent of the marks. So the boards carry equivalent weightage.”

Less stress

Almost all teachers say the new system has reduced stress among kids – up to class 10 at least – but it has made them too relaxed. “No wonder, the stress has been reduced so much so that students are not taking their studies seriously,” says Madhu Sharma, who teaches History at St Mary's School in Safdarjung Enclave.

“They are not pushing themselves hard to learn,” she added. “The competitive spirit is dying in kids,” she adds. “The attitude to fare better in exams is no more there.”

Some students echoed these views.

“After continuing with the CCE in class 10, we had a lot of difficulty in covering the lengthy syllabus in class 11,” says Shivani Sazawal, who is taking the boards in class 12 this year. “Lot of students flunked in class 11 because they couldn’t cope up with it,” the DPS Vasant Kunj student adds.
Some children also feel that boards in class 10 is a good idea. “Appearing for the boards gives students an advantage at the time of competitive exams,” says Shivani Galhotra, a class 11 student.

“Boards in class 10 also teach you time management and how to handle stress before the exam.”
“Ex-students who had appeared for boards in class 10 are more confident at the time of the 12 board exams than we will ever be,” says the teenager who didn’t take the board examination in class 10.

Analytical skills

But some teachers say that kids are developing an analytical skill set through CCE. “Children feel more engaged in the CCE pattern. The real education empowers students to apply their skills and help in all round development,” says Sonia Luthra, principal of ASN Senior Secondary School in Mayur Vihar Phase 1.

“There are a lot of assignments involved under CCE which help them to contemplate which is different from the traditional chalk and talk method of teaching,” she adds.

These teachers feel that CCE can work wonders if implemented in the right spirit. “Students shouldn’t take CCE for granted. They should read textbooks properly. They should avoid doing selective revision,” says Madhu Sharma.

Making boards optional in class 10 has drawn mixed reactions, but implementing CCE in class 12 may have some serious repercussions, educationists say.

“If CBSE has to implement CCE in class 12 also, first they have to make huge changes in the higher education system. They have to bring UGC (University Grants Commission) in sync with the CCE as in competitive examinations every per cent makes a difference while under the CCE students who score 92 marks and above get the same grade A+,” says Luthra.

“The CBSE should start some programmes at par with vocational courses so that those who don’t want to pursue higher education may land up in a job,” the principal adds.

Easygoing parents

The CCE has also made the parents relaxed. “Guardians of students have also started taking the examinations lightly. They know their children can’t be detained so they don’t bother much,” says Anju Puri, principal of DAV Public School in Vasant Kunj.

“After the introduction of the CCE, parents have started taking almost no interest in their child’s studies,” she adds.

“Many private schools are using this initiative of the CBSE to enhance their pass percentage. One school showed 200 out of its 500 students in class 10 scoring 10 CGPA (Cumulative Grade Point Average). How is it possible?” she asks. “As schools have 70 per cent marks in their hands they do what they feel like doing,” she adds.

But the CBSE says it conducts regular inspections on the evaluation process being followed by each school. “We make random visits to schools and ask for the answer sheets of one subject. We go through them and then make suggestions,” says an official with CBSE.

To end rote learning, the board has also started Open Text Based Assessment (OTBA). “The response has been good. We have conducted open book test for Biology and Geography,” says Puri.

“We have take the open text book exam seriously and we have even started implementing it in our elementary classes,” says Luthra.

Recently, the CBSE issued its first report on Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation since its introduction in 2009. It showed an improvement in student scores and the overall pass percentage since 2010.