June 27, 2020 1:27:02 am
Ending three months of uncertainty for Class X and XII students, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), on Thursday, cancelled the examinations that were stalled in March because of the COVID-19 lockdown. The Board had earlier decided to hold the examinations in the second week of July. But with the country’s COVID graph continuing to rise after the end of the lockdown, parents’ associations had requested the CBSE to scrap the exams. The Delhi government had also offered the same suggestion. But it has taken a petition by a group of parents to the Supreme Court, and a nudge by the apex court, for the CBSE to end its prevarication. The Board had initially told the Court that it would give Class 12 students the option to appear in examinations “after the situation is conducive” or take an assessment on the basis of their performance “in past three exams”. The SC rightly found the Board’s formula lacking in clarity and asked it to spell out a time-frame for holding the exams — it also suggested cancelling the exams. The CBSE’s decision, though belated, is welcome.
The students will now be assessed on a special marking scheme that takes into account a number of scenarios, including one in which some students could have completed all their exams. The scheme also offers scope for internal assessment. And if students are not satisfied with the results, based on this system, they can opt for an examination which will be scheduled later. Such complicated methods have been necessitated by the emergency created by the pandemic. But the current situation also offers an opportunity to educational authorities to rethink the current board examination system, which by all accounts, seems to be a growing burden on students. Much has been said and written on how these examinations have reduced learning to memorising matter in textbooks. In 2010, the CBSE did make the Class X exams optional. They were replaced with the continuous comprehensive system of evaluation (CCE) — a problematic scheme on several counts. There was no clarity on how to assess students. A number of studies underlined that there was no mechanism to use the evaluations to ascertain a child’s educational growth. Teachers also complained that the process added to their workload. This churn should have occasioned further engagement with the country’s secondary and higher secondary examination systems and led policymakers to debate solutions more creative than the CCE. Instead, in 2017, the CBSE reverted to the old system of board examinations for Class X.
It’s a truism that the board examinations have acquired disproportionate weightage in a student’s academic life. There is perhaps a case for staggering the exams to make them less stressful. More importantly, the impasse created by the pandemic should lead to rethinking on how to make the examination system more broad-based and sensitive to different kinds of learners and learning environments.
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