A committee set up by the government in the wake of the CBSE paper leak this year has suggested, among other things, that the Board rationalise the number of subjects it offers to students Classes X and XII. The suggestion may seem to have little to do with fixing the paper leak problem, but the fact remains that the CBSE offers more subjects than any other board.
2 exams, 248 subjects
The CBSE offers 248 subjects for its Board exams — 61 for Class X and 187 for Class XII. In comparison, the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination offers 26 subjects for ICSE (Class X) and 30 for ISC (XII), while NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) offers 28 for IX and X. Also, the subjects offered by CBSE are not categorised into different streams, and students can opt for subjects across science, arts and commerce. The committee report notes that even a combination of physics, political science, business studies, painting and English, which cut across the three streams, is possible.
All this creates a problem in planning exam schedules; the CBSE has to conduct an exam for each subject, even if a single candidate takes any of these.
There can be a wide disparity in the number of candidates — in the Class X exam this year, over 1.5 crore students appeared for social science, science and mathematics, and none for marketing and sales, e-publishing and e-office, and Carnatic music (percussion instruments). In the Class XII exam, not a single student appeared in 22 subjects, including Kuchipudi, Mohiniyattam, poultry production & breeding, foundry technology, and nail technology and retail. For 77 subjects in Class XII, the number of candidates was 100 or less; for 14, the number was more than one lakh. Seven subjects had one candidate each.
Clubbing all these subjects into one exam timetable puts pressure on the Board’s resources. Since students are free to take subjects across streams, some of them often get very little preparation leave before a difficult subject. Accommodating all 248 subjects makes the examination season long — around 45 days — making it difficult for teachers to be available for invigilation throughout this period. “The longer the duration and intensity, the greater the number of papers, the more chances of a misstep in the conduct of examinations,” the report states.
The way out
The committee suggests rationalisation of subjects, which include merger of papers that are “conceptual similar” or “have thematic synergies”.
The report cites the example of four separate papers for Class XII subjects olericulture, floriculture, pomology and basic horticulture, which are inter-related and hence good candidates for a merger. Papers in bakery and confectionery, too, can be merged, it suggests.
The panel has also suggested that the Board drop outdated subjects that aren’t that relevant from the point of view of employment or have had very few candidates over the last few years. Once the subjects on offer have been rationalised, the committee has suggested that the CBSE should examine the possibility of categorising them into broad groups, so that a candidate is restricted to choices in one group as opposed to an “unfettered” selection of subjects.
The subjects with fewer takers can be conducted before in January-February and the popular subjects can have their exam in March-April. This will shorten the exam season and won’t spread the Board’s resources too thin.