The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), the panel most Delhi schools are affiliated to, has decided to bring back Class 10 board exams. The same board had made the ‘stressful’ exams optional for the Class of 2011 and introduced the continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) system through year-round tests and a grading system.
In its consultations with the stakeholders, the CBSE found that school principals and parents wanted out of the dual-system and asked for the reintroduction of the mandatory board exam for Class 10. The internal assessment is likely to carry 20% weightage along with the board exams for the Class of 2018.
The CCE was started with the aim to shift focus from testing memory alone to judging a range of abilities such as imagination and creativity. Reducing stress was to be the natural fallout. But it ended up suffering from the same structural problems that plagued the previous systems.
The CCE required well-trained teachers who could understand and rate kids continuously on the basis of projects, class tests and extra-curricular activities. This called for a bigger investment in the teaching staff, which very few schools were willing to make. The teachers who were expected to roll out the reform were themselves a product of the old rote system.
Until 2011, a bachelor’s degree in Education alone could land one a teacher’s job. Then the Union human resource ministry introduced the Central Teacher Eligibility Test for BEd before they were hired in central government-run schools. Delhi adopted the same exam for state schools. But the results have been dismal at 7% in 2013 and 13.53% in 2015.
Unless it is from a reputed university, most BEd degrees or diplomas are suspect. In 2012, a Supreme Court-appointed committee headed by the former chief justice of India JS Verma found that of the 291 teacher-training institutes it inspected in Maharashtra, only 34 were fit to continue. That was just one state.
The CCE offered an opportunity to launch a continuous evaluation of the skills of the existing teaching staff in both government and private schools. But authorities seemed content with perfunctory training so they could get the new system started. In an article in HT last week, former NCERT director Krishna Kumar wrote that there was no uniformity in training and how “lack of coordination and clarity on roles and responsibilities expectedly resulted in systemic chaos”.
The idea of making boards optional was to reduce the obsession with high marks. But most students opted for internal exams because they believed it would make scoring high marks easier. Their schools did not disappoint. Last year, almost 12% students who cleared Class 10 under CBSE got a perfect score. The previous year, it was 7%. Some Delhi schools even flaunted 60% of their students in the top bracket of 90% scorers or more.
In 2004-05, in the name of de-stressing, the CBSE shifted its policy from testing what a student does not know to what she actually knows. Long answer type questions were reduced to minimise subjectivity and objective type questions were introduced. As a result, students are scoring 100% even in English and History.
But to clear the Class 12 exam, students must still take the board exam where the pass percentage this year was 83% as compared to Class 10’s 96%. It gets progressively difficult to score as one proceeds to higher standards, but the drop in overall performance in just two years tells that all’s not well.
Even the Class 12 board throws up too many high-scorers. Reality dawns when they compete for few good options for undergraduate courses at Delhi University. For most popular courses in top colleges, cut-offs consistently stay above 95% and the seats fill up fast. Suddenly, nobody is sure how good is good enough.
Teachers and parents are the best judge of their wards’ aptitude, interest and capability. It is criminal to induce a false sense of academic accomplishment and expectations by awarding high marks undeservingly. Switching between board exams and internal assessment will not make a difference unless the system gets real.