The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Class X test on stress-buster radar
- Reforms panel to discuss whether to make board exam optional

New Delhi, Sept. 3: The Central Advisory Board of Education is meeting on Tuesday to debate, among other things, whether the Class X board examination can be made optional.

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has held the most extensive discussions ever to put together a curriculum framework that focuses on examination reforms.

One of the recommendations is to make the Class X board examination optional. “As a long-term measure, school boards should consider making the Class X examination optional, thus permitting students continuing in the same school' to take an internal school examination instead,” says the framework.

At present, students have to appear for board examinations after Class X and Class XII. Entry to colleges is on the basis of the Class XII results.

“The whole idea of reforms is to reduce the stress of two board exams on students,” says Krishna Kumar, director, NCERT. “There are reports of so many suicide cases among students.”

Tuesday’s meeting of the advisory board is likely to stamp its approval on the new framework, which also promises a curriculum students will be able to relate to.

“One of the focal points of the new framework is examination reforms that will reduce the stress on children,” Kumar adds.

Over 40 school boards will meet in the capital on September 15 to discuss the recommendations, which will then be sent to the states for their approval. The new system is likely to be in place before the next academic session.

A second suggestion for examination reforms is to change the questions so that it takes less time to answer them. “A three-hour question paper should be set in a manner that it can be answered in two-and-a-half hours. Speed should not be the focus,” the NCERT director says.

Students are now confronted with questions that demand lengthy answers and, in the race to finish on time, they do not even read them carefully. Still, students sometimes cannot complete the paper because of lack of time.

“Ninety per cent of all students taking the examination should be able to complete the paper and review or revise it,” the curriculum framework says.

Stressing on the need for examination reforms, sources point out that every year, 50 per cent of students in each of the boards fail to pass. The maximum failures are in mathematics and English. “We are failing our children,” says Avtar Singh, a professor of mathematics in NCERT.

But not everyone agrees with the recommendation to make the Class X board examination optional. Anita Rampal, a member of one of the focus groups involved in drawing up the new curriculum, says: “Making the 10th standard examination optional may create two categories of students ' one at a low level and the other at a high level.”

Weak students who cannot cope with the stress of a board examination are likely to go for a school examination after Class X, she says.

“This will create a differential system of education like we have in the case of vocational education which is considered inferior. There should be a uniform examination system,” stresses Rampal. “Most countries,” she adds, “have one formal school leaving examination.”

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