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CBSE paper leak: When education system fails, we fail our children

This is truly not a time for witch hunting but a time to introspect and fight the cause. If a system has been breached, there are deep-rooted causes beyond the schools and the examination bodies.

education Updated: Mar 29, 2018 09:34 IST
Sadhana Bhalla
Sadhana Bhalla
CBSE,CBSE Board exams cancelled,CBSE retest
Students of class 12th coming after appearing for the CBSE Chemistry exam in Bhopal on March 13, 2018. (Mujeeb Faruqui/HT file Photo)

In the face of many leakages of the board paper, our students, teachers and parents are experiencing dejection, and helplessness. Most importantly, the credibility of educational systems is at stake. When the education system falls to corruption and bribery, when papers are leaked at the board examination level, it forces us to re-evaluate the 12 to 14 years we spend teaching our children values of hard work and honesty. When the education system fails, we fail our children.

The stress of the board examination on children and their parents is tremendous. This kind of failure converts their stress into trauma. Naturally, it pushes the already fragile mental health of the families reeling under the pressure of the boards, who entrust us educators with the future of their children, to breaking limits. And this is not new: each year we have intense conversations. We as educators must strive to prevent such leakages and the pressure of re-exams. We need to do better, and have zero tolerance for this corruption that riddles our system of education; verily, Indian society in virtually all fields.

READ: 2.2 million Class 10, Class 12 students to take maths, economics exams again

To say only the CBSE is to blame is to miss the big picture. The CBSE has no interest in leaking out the papers it sets. Who gains from leaking the paper, and has the financial or political pull to break through a system to gain access? This is truly not a time for witch hunting but a time to introspect and fight the cause. If a system has been breached, there are deep-rooted causes beyond the schools and the examination bodies.

In this trying time, we need to stand together with the board and put our heads together in suggesting better, smarter, effective and foolproof ways of evaluation and assessment. We need to look within: what are our children learning if we are teaching them it doesn’t matter if you haven’t worked hard, there will be a shortcut? As educators, it is our duty to continuously deliberate, research and suggest more meaningful systems to teach and to ensure learning happens. It is time we are not standing on the line and receiving instructions but are playing a more proactive role and come with research-based solutions. There is no war here… the system is us and we make the system.

All that is unfolding is the malaise and corruption in our society and it is our moral duty to fight it. This is also a time for governments to take the practitioners into confidence. It is a time for us to give hope to our children instead of letting exams fail them.

Let’s take another step back. While it is correct that ‘rigour’ is needed to ensure teaching-learning happens, and it is of high quality, at the same time an academic style examination may not be the most appropriate measure of knowledge, skills and competencies. What if we could explore alternatives such as adaptive testing, on screen testing, simulations instead of just ‘hots’ questions, e-portfolios (continuous assessments, verification, grading followed by continuous feedback, reviewing curriculum along with assessment? The key to defuse the stress of one-exam-takes-all, and your entire year is predicated on this one nail-biting finish, is the examining board training the teachers to evaluate students throughout the year — continuously, comprehensively and effectively. Perhaps a substantial part of assessment could be done by school teachers, perhaps to the extent of 50% rather than depending totally and exclusively on a single exam.

Let’s not point fingers. Lets come up with solutions that work.

(Sadhana Bhalla is chairperson, National Progressive Schools’ Conference, and Principal, Mira Model School)

First Published: Mar 29, 2018 09:30 IST