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The change in the classroom

Struggling to meet the everyday demands of teaching, evaluating and report writing, Pratima Sharma has her work at school cut out for her. Bhavya Dore reports.

mumbai Updated: Apr 02, 2011 01:36 IST
Bhavya Dore

Struggling to meet the everyday demands of teaching, evaluating and report writing, Pratima Sharma has her work at school cut out for her. But the newly implemented continuous comprehensive evaluation (CCE) system, in keeping with the Right To Education (RTE) Act, has generated a side effect that is truly testing Sharma’s abilities: classroom management.

“It’s difficult to maintain control in class now because every child knows they will be promoted so many hardly pay attention,” said Sharma, a teacher at St Xavier’s School, Nerul.

CCE means students will be evaluated on a round-the-year basis instead of being tested in an annual exam, and no one can be failed until Class 8.

In theory, the changes were hailed as progressive, but a year later, schools, parents and students offered mixed responses.

“It is the first year of the CCE; it is slowly gaining momentum,” said Suresh Nair, principal of Vivek Vidyalaya, Goregaon. “The tension on students has reduced but the fear that motivated them to work has gone. They are taking it easy. Because of that, indiscipline has also increased.”

Children might be less stressed, but the burden has shifted to teachers. A recent survey of civic school teachers by a non-profit group suggested that 90% thought the new system had increased occupational stress.

Beyond the classrooms, confusion dogs schools even administratively. For one, the 25% clause requiring schools to admit economically disadvantaged students has put them in a dilemma.

“There is no clarity on the policy. We don’t know if the government will pay the entire fee amount,” said a principal, who did not wish to be named. “If they don’t pay, how will we manage the cost? We can’t charge extra fees to other students.”

Further, the Act forbids schools from screening children but principals said that interaction between parents of prospective students and schools enables both parties to assess each other.

But the optimists see all of this as teething trouble. “We are not promoting children blindly but teachers are working with them again and again to ensure they are actually learning,” said Seema Shaikh, principal of Pragnya Bodhini High School, Goregaon. “Any change is resisted in the beginning. We are trying to make parents see it in a different light.”

Projects, quizzes make learning fun

For the past month, students at Vashi’s Sacred Heart School have had to spend an extra hour in class. The newly introduced ‘activity period’, an extra hour every day, allows them to indulge in a hobby of their choice.

The class was introduced to fill up the 15 extra hours that teachers are now required to work every week.

“We don’t do it for the marks but because we enjoy what we do,” said Mihica Bakre, a Class 8 student who works with the Eco Club during the extra hour.

From activities to quizzes and projects, the system of continuous comprehensive evaluation (CCE) has done away with the intensity of a single annual exam and instead divided learning into around the year modules.

CCE means students will be evaluated on a round-the-year basis instead of being tested in an annual exam, and no one can be failed until Class 8.

Even as teachers baulk at their academic burdens and parents complain about an inevitable fall in educational standards, students are enjoying the new system.

“I like this system a lot,” said Risaal Singh Mann, a Class 7 student of Kendriya Vidyalaya at Colaba. “There are so many more activities to do now — plays, quizzes, projects — and people who were not good at exams get a chance to do well in other ways.”

The opportunity to do group work and make presentations has been exciting for some. “We gather more knowledge and also present our talents,” said Shinie Pandit, a Class 6 student of Fort Convent.

But not all are happy. “We have so many projects, we get surprise tests, we have school activities, they mark us on our behaviour… it’s all a burden,” said Martina Vadakethala, a Class 6 student of Auxilium Convent, Wadala.

‘Outsourced’ homework raises parents’ stress levels

What she had confined to the backwaters of her memory, Jane D’Cruz now has to dredge up once more.

As a mother of two primary school going children, D’Cruz is among a host of parents complaining that the new evaluation system without tests has increased their stress levels.

“The children are enjoying the new system but the parents are doing all the work,” complained D’Cruz, who in the past year has written skits, revised her math and done projects on ‘Types of dal’. “Ideally, children should be doing the work in class.”

Parents helping with school work isn’t new, but they say that the ‘outsourcing’ is getting out of hand. “I told my daughter’s teacher that the marks she gives, she’s giving me, not her,” said Minal Wagal, a parent of a Class 5 student at Mahim’s Canossa Convent.

Wagal and other parents have told the school principal that they should revert to unit tests.

While the new system has decreased students’ burden. parents are sceptical as to whether teachers will do the job and if this is good for the long run.

Agnelo Fernandes, whose child is in Class 1 at Victoria High School, Mahim, said: “It is good now, but in five or six years it will affect students. Plus, if there is no incentive to do well, and everyone gets promoted, even teachers will not be interested in teaching the children.”

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