The Decision of the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board (GSHSEB) to conduct practical exams for Class X and XII, hitherto being held internally by schools themselves, has served a dual purpose. Apart from checking malpractices by schools to pass their students, it has resulted in hundreds of private and grant-in-aid schools upgrading their defunct science laboratories.
The schools also began offering practical lessons to students ahead of the board exams, instead of simply awarding them marks without actually holding the exams.
This was the finding from feedback collected recently from schools and examiners by the education board.
“Labs have now been constructed in many schools, while others have upgraded their equipment to provide practical lessons to students,” GSHSEB chairman A J Shah said.
The schools were given ample time to ready their labs for the exams. “Since the change was announced a couple of months in advance from the exams, the schools got time to get their labs in place,” GSHSEB exam secretary Mahesh Mehta said. Over 1.25 lakh students appeared for the Class X and XII practical exams held between February 15 and 26. Like other state board exams, CCTVs were used for the practical exams too to check malpractice by students and teachers alike.
The board, which had conducted the practical exams till 2010, after which the schools were themselves allowed to hold the exams, decided to intervene once more this year after it received several complaints about schools using unfair means to pass their students.
“There were instances when the schools would not conduct any practical exams at all and simply awarded 90 per cent marks to its students,” one of the board officials said. “There were checks on such schools, as they themselves conducted the practical exams internally.”
This year, the board not only framed the question papers but also deputed one external examiner along with the examiner from the exam centre, for the practical exams of 50 marks each.
The initiative was among other steps taken by the education board to check the rampant unfair practices used by schools to show better results. The GSHSEB last year announced major changes in the pattern of examinations for Class X and XII to be held in March 2020.
Exams would no longer be conducted using Optical Mark Reader (OMR) sheets, which are being used for 50 per cent of Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs). What’s more, MCQs, which made up 50 per cent of the question paper, will now be replaced by 20 per cent objective-type questions, which the student would have to write down on the answer sheet, instead of shading an OMR sheet.
These new rules were brought in after teachers, facing away from CCTV cameras, were found to have been giving away the answers to the students. The malpractice came to light after a curious pattern was noticed, where several students who scored above 90 per cent in the MCQs could not score a single mark in the subjective questions. The students were thus clearing the exams with the minimum required 33 per cent pass marks.
Such students were orally examined based on the answers they had given for the multiple choice questions, and it was found that they were unable to reproduce the answers.