Over the past five years, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has undertaken the task of carrying out examination reforms proposed by the National Curriculum Framework (NCF, 2005).
According to this body’s position paper on examination reforms — external examinations are largely inappropriate for the knowledge society of the 21st century and its need for innovative problem solvers; questions, if not framed well, call for rote memorsation and fail to test higher-order skills like reasoning and analysis, lateral thinking, creativity and judgement. Following up on the Continuous and Comprehensive Examination (CCE) system introduced by the board a slew of new initiatives have been introduced in the last two years that include PSA (Problem-Solving Assessment in classes 9 and 11), OTBA (Open Text-Based Assessment for classes 9 and 11) and ASL (Assessment of Speaking and Listening Skills for classes 9, 10 and 11).
The CBSE has introduced PSA since the 2012-13 academic session for classes 9 and 11. The test items will incorporate aspects of 21st century skills (creative thinking, decision-making, critical thinking, problem solving, and communication) that lead to success at the secondary stage. They would be assessing a student’s ability to process, interpret and use information rather than assessing students’ prior subject matter knowledge.
The PSA score will be counted towards FA-4 which is 10% of total assessments (for one language and three other subjects – mathematics, science and social science) of class 9. This assessment will also be carried forward towards the FA-4 in class 10. The students of class 11 will get a certificate on the PSA. As directed by the CBSE, there will be no separate time tables or periods for teaching or practice of PSA.
CBSE recommends that multiple modes of assessment need to be provided to cater to the varied abilities of individual strengths of learners. It has, therefore, decided to introduce an element of OTBA (Open Text- Based Assessment) for classes 9 and 11 in the March 2014 examination. These are meant to incorporate analytical and theoretical skills, thus moving away from memorisation.
For class 9, it will be applicable to all the main subjects and will be a part of summative assessment 2 (SA 2) to be held in March 2014. The schools will be supplied with textual material in few months before the commencement of SA 2. Textual material may be in the form of an article, a case study, a diagram, a concept/ mind map, a picture or a cartoon, problem/situation based on the concepts taught to be students during second term. It will be to the extent of 10% in all the main subjects and may also include the value-based questions. The textual material will be related to chosen concepts taken from the syllabi. For class 11, OTBA will be a part of the annual examination to be held in March 2014 and will be applicable to subjects like economics, biology and geography only.
In the present day global market scenario, speaking and listening are considered to be indispensable skills of real life. The board proposes to give weightage in formative and summative assessments in ASL (Assessment of Speaking and Listening Skills).
The listening comprehension section tests the candidate’s ability to listen for basic interpersonal, instructional and academic purposes.
Here are some of the sub-skills of listening which need to be assessed in the formative and summative assessments: listening for specific information; listening for general understanding; predictive listening; inferential listening; listening for pleasure; intensive listening; and evaluative listening.
Like listening skills – a number of sub-skills of speaking need to be consciously developed amongst students. Each of these tests require familiarity with the examination pattern. At the same time, there is a need to be aware of the test structure (number and type of questions, and duration of the test). The student needs to spend time practising similar test questions before the examination to ensure optimal performance.
Some of the sub-skills in Speaking include
# Speaking intelligibly using appropriate word stress, sentence stress and intonation patterns.
# Narrating incidents and events, real or imaginary, in a logical sequence.
# Presenting oral reports or summaries; making announcements clearly and confidently.
# Expressing and arguing a point of view clearly and effectively.
# Taking active part in group discussions, showing ability to express agreement or disagreement, summarizing ideas, eliciting the views of others and presenting own ideas.
# Expressing and responding to personal feelings, opinions and attitudes.
# Participating in spontaneous spoken discourse in familiar social situations.
The author is a leading education and curriculum specialist and currently works with StudyMate as chief academic officer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. StudyMate, a Hindustan Times initiative, offers support to students for all these assessments across its 12 centres in Delhi/NCR.