For a society obsessed with exam percentages and academic goalposts, the Centre’s announcement that a new evaluation system will replace the Class X board exams in Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools is a welcome move. In fact, in 2005 the National Curriculum Framework had suggested replacing the examination-based board system with a grade system.
The new grading system will have two sets of assessments: one based on continuous and comprehensive evaluation comprising internal exams and second on extra-curricular activities like interviews, quizzes, project work and co-scholastic activities like life skills and sports. In other words, the new system will focus on an all-round holistic development of students, hopefully bringing back some of the joy to learning.
There’s no doubt that this fresh infusion of ideas will do a world of good for the secondary education system, which has been overlooked by successive governments except when there was a political need to change the ideological tone of textbooks. However, merely doing away with the board exam system will not get us the due benefits; certain ancillary issues need to be tackled too: better textbooks, school infrastructure and intensive training of teachers and sensitisation programmes for parents. In fact, teachers and parents would need to adjust to the new system faster and re-orient their attitude towards learning and exams.
Over the years, the marks-oriented educational system has put huge pressure on students and many have fallen victim to their own as well as parents’ expectations. A wider challenge lies ahead for government-aided schools where there are more pressing needs like good teaching staff, and basic requirements like blackboards, books, playing fields and sanitation facilities. The HRD ministry needs to look into these without delay so that these students don’t miss the reform bus yet again.
India is often called a knowledge economy and the country most likely to reap the demographic dividend. If it wants to enjoy the long-term benefits of these two positives, it is imperative that we improve our educational system with the requirements of the age. The grading system is just for the CBSE for the time being: if it works, it could push other boards to change their systems. There will be many teething problems. But this initiative sends a very strong positive signal that the government means business when it comes to reforming the education system. It may be far from done, but it is certainly well begun.