Maharashtra board students fare poorly in medical, engineering entrance tests, syllabus to blame? | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Maharashtra board students fare poorly in medical, engineering entrance tests, syllabus to blame?

Mumbai city news: The Maharashtra government has changed science and math syllabi so students perform better in national tests

mumbai Updated: May 23, 2017 09:07 IST
Musab Qazi

For nearly a decade now, state government schools — and their students — have been playing an impossible game of catch-up.

The government has taken steps to alter science and math curricula in state board schools to make it easier for students to write national-level medical and engineering tests. But the implementation has been poor. The result? Students passing out of a state board school in Maharashtra are not on a level playing field with students from schools that follow the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) syllabus, in entrance exams to professional courses.

The story so far

In response to a central government plan to have a uniform science and math curriculum for Classes 9 to 12, Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board in 2010 came up with the State Curriculum Framework (SCF). The SCF was to revise curriculum of secondary classes. This new curriculum was introduced for students in Class 9 and Class 11 in 2012-13, and the next year, for students in Class 10 and Class 12.

But many said the new state board books still did not match NCERT standards. The state then decided to upgrade the syllabus once again and brought in a revised curriculum framework last year. Now, new textbooks are being issued for Class 7 and Class 9 students from the upcoming academic year (2017-18). Students in Class 8 and Class 10 will get the upgraded syllabus next year.

Has it helped?

Basanti Roy, a former Mumbai divisional secretary of the Maharashtra state board said there was still no evidence that performance of state board students improved. If the recent all India rankings for Joint Entrance Examinations (Main) are considered, students from Maharashtra fell far behind their peers from other states and boards.The rankings did not have a single state board student from Mumbai in the top 100 — some experts say this is enough to show Maharashtra hasn’t gone as far as other states in adopting NCERT curriculum.

Why is this happening?

Several factors are responsible for the relatively poor show by Maharashtra students at national tests, said experts.

Working on the Centre’s directions and anxious to have its students perform well in entrance tests, the state quickly moved to revise its curriculum for secondary classes. But it did not start the exercise for primary classes. The textbooks for primary school were eventually changed, but experts feel they are still “easier”. “State board students study slightly easier textbooks from Class 1 to Class 8. When they enter Class 9, they are suddenly faced with a more difficult syllabus and find it difficult to cope,” said Roy.

Another problem is teachers are not trained enough for the new syllabus, and examination and evaluation patterns are not changed to adapt. So, while the state revises the syllabus, these other aspects of education remain the same.

READ: Double trouble for Mumbai Class 12 students: 1 syllabus for board exam, another for entrance tests

“The same teachers who taught the old syllabus all these years, in a particular way, are now teaching the new curriculum without enough training. The teaching approach in CBSE schools and state board schools is different. CBSE lays emphasis on teaching concepts and they challenge students with application-based questions. But this is not happening in state board schools,” said Roy.

Others don’t agree with this assessment. “Across the world, the curriculum for students up to Class 5 is easy, so they have fun learning. It gets tougher for higher classes,” said Vasant Kalpande, former chairman of MSBSHSE.

“Mentality change”

Gangadhar Mamhane, the current chairman of the board, said the “mentality” of state board schools and junior colleges is why there is such a difference in the performance of students from different boards.

“Textbooks are only a medium. So much depends on schools and teachers. If a school registers a 100% passing percentage in board exams, it is satisfied. But preparing students for JEE or NEET is not a priority for schools. Instead, there’s this tendency to declare every tricky question an ‘out-of-syllabus’ one,” he said.

Mamhane said while the board conducts training programmes to bring teachers up to speed whenever curriculum is changed, it will be a while before teachers upgrade their methods. “Things can’t change overnight.”

Ramesh Deshpande, a junior college professor at Bhavans College, who was a member of the committee that drafted the SCF, said another problem is these programmes are often just a formality. “When the curriculum was changed in 2012, the board had organised a single-day training workshop for physics teachers in the Mumbai division. The workshops has space for only one teacher from every college to attend sessions. The entire exercise was just a formality,” he said.

Other limitations

There’s another limitation in adopting the CBSE model of education.

Unlike CBSE schools, which are mainly concentrated in urban areas and enrol fewer students, the state board caters to lakhs of students from all parts of the state and from different sections of society. When it comes to the science stream, the state has to be mindful of many students who don’t want to pursue a professional course or write entrance tests. This year, of 5.59 lakh Class 12 science students who took the higher secondary certificate (HSC) examinations, 3.89 lakh, or 70%, took the state-conducted common entrance test (CET) for pharmacy and engineering courses.

The way out?

To strike a balance, the state adopted a policy of designing “easy” question papers, even as the curriculum became tougher. “It makes sense to upgrade the science curriculum to the NCERT level because many students take entrance tests. But the easier question papers ensure that students with even a basic knowledge of the subject is able to clear the exams”, said Kalpande.

A former MSBSHSE official said the government needs to adopt a long-term strategy for education, instead of looking for quick fixes. “Governments have limited tenures. So they are in a hurry to show results. Whenever a new policy is implemented, the government must wait before evaluating its impact,” she said.

Kalpande suggested the board should update the curriculum often. According to Deshpande, when states have their own curricula, they should conduct their own entrance tests, instead of the Centre imposing national exams.