Representatives of states from around the country expressed deep reservations on Monday over the Centre’s proposal to introduce sweeping changes in India’s school examination system — in particular doing away with the Class X marks-based exam.
Monday’s national meet of the Council of Boards of School Education (COBSE) was the first platform bringing together as many as 35 heads of India’s 41 school boards since Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal asserted in the Lok Sabha this July that the country could no longer afford to hold up exam reforms.
Addressing COBSE’s annual meet — called three months prior to the schedule — Sibal reiterated his agenda (see box). The HRD minister said, “The current system (of an exam and marks) suits the teachers, not the child. A system of continuous evaluation would de-stress the child, but it would also require the teacher to be involved more closely with every student.”
Sibal said a turnaround was essential to craft systems for “the release of the individual genius”. He, however, conceded, “I shudder to think how 41 state boards will arrive at a consensus on this.”
He added that educators should debate whether four regional boards could replace the current 41.
However his remarks did not evoke much support from most state representatives, who seemed to view the proposed changes as a move towards control and centralisation.
“You need state boards in a country as diverse country as ours”, said W Ibempishak, who heads Manipur’s Board of Secondary Education. “Manipur is in conflict now, and only a state board is close to students and teachers and can address their problems.”
“Centralised remote controls don’t work. They add to the corruption,” seconded the Himachal School Board’s chairman CL Gupta, adding, “Will abolishing the Std X exam make a student free? Some amount of stress is necessary to perform well.”
Others thought the ministry wasn’t adequately alive to the challenges on the ground faced by government and government-aided schools.
West Bengal School Board’s head Mamata Roy said, “Universalisation of school education is our first priority.
Each year we are adding 1-2 lakh first-generation learners, especially girls, into our school system. Making exams
optional will be counter-productive, and create further segmentation.”