From the academic year 2017-18, the state school education department will scrap the easy math or general mathematics option — a less difficult paper than the regular course — for students in Class 9, and a year after that, for Class 10.
Instead, all students will compulsorily take the regular math course that the department is revamping to suit multiple intelligences in the classroom.
Easy math was introduced by the Maharashtra state board in 2011 for students weak in math, in order to improve the pass rate of the subject. There was only one catch. Students choosing easy math would not be able to take admissions in the science stream in Class 11 or to industrial training institutes ( ITIs).
A review done by the department found most students taking the subject were unaware of this clause or regretted it later.
“At 13, it is unfair to ask children to take a subject that will close career avenues such as engineering for them. Many chose it without thinking of its repercussions and faced problems later,” said Prachi Sathe, special officer, education department.
This also reduced the number of students opting for this subject. Of 17 lakh students appearing for the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exam every year, only 1.15 lakh students pursued easy math. This is just 6.5% of the total number of students.
“The purpose behind introducing easy math was to improve the pass rate of students, but we didn’t see any significant impact,” Sathe said.
It was also becoming difficult for schools to offer the subject only for a few students. “It’s tough because schools have to hold separate classes and exams for a small group of students,” said Sathe.
But what will happen to weak students if easy math is scrapped?
Sathe said Vinod Tawde, the education minister, is in the process of drawing up a plan to revise the regular math syllabus. “ The minister’s plan is to incorporate both easy and tough questions into the subject and design the question paper in such a way that all students can answer it,” said Sathe. She added this would mean scaling down the difficulty level of the regular math course.
“While students appearing for exams like NEET want difficult math on the level of the CBSE syllabus, we can’t deny that SSC board is for the masses and we can’t make the subject too tough for just a few thousand students,” she said.
School principals, however, are upset with the decision to keep only one math subject for all students. “Students with learning disabilities were taking up easy math as they found regular math difficult. Now what option will they have? The department should have consulted with all schools before taking the decision,” said Suresh Nair, principal, Vivek Vidyalaya, Goregaon.
But academicians lauded the decision saying easy math was redundant. “Even easy math was actually not that easy. It was doing more harm than good,” said Vasant Kalpande, former chairman of the Maharashtra state board.
Kalpande suggested other ways of making math easy for students. “The paper can be divided into two sections, while it will be compulsory for students to attempt both the sections. The easy section should equip students with enough marks to pass, while the second section could be an add on for students with higher thinking skills,” said Kalpande.