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State boards lose schools

- Upgrade failure triggers rush to switch

Some of the better English-medium schools affiliated to the state boards are switching to the CBSE curriculum in what is being seen as a no-confidence motion against Madhyamik and Higher Secondary’s efforts to stay relevant.

The list of Calcutta schools that have crossed over includes Shri Shikshayatan, Gokhale Memorial and Nava Nalanda. Sources said some other city schools were in the process of switching affiliation to a central board whose curriculum is routinely updated to be in sync with all national-level exams.

Although changes in syllabi can be challenging, the majority of parents support the schools’ decision because their wards would be better prepared for the rigours of competitive exams that decide careers.

“The CBSE curriculum is well researched and the books are standardised. Besides, it teaches what students need to know to succeed in the national-level competitive exams,” said Soma Pal, whose daughter is a student at Gokhale Memorial Girls’ School.

Entrance tests are not the only reason why the Madhyamik and Higher Secondary boards have fallen out of favour. Neither board has yet been able to adapt to the evaluation model that is now universally followed to give students a level playing field when they compete for seats through national-level exams.

Madhyamik and Higher Secondary exams have more long-answer questions than objective-type ones, because of which a student invariably scores lower marks than someone of the same calibre sitting for a CBSE test (see box).

“We lose several meritorious students every year when they take transfers to CBSE institutions,” said Sujata Chatterjee, principal of Gokhale Memorial.

Dolon Ganguly’s son is one of the many who changed to CBSE after Madhyamik. “My son scored more than 91 per cent in Madhyamik from St. Lawrence. His goal is an IIT seat and everyone we consulted suggested that we put him in a CBSE school for plus-two in preparation for the challenges ahead. He is now in Delhi Public School, Ruby Park,” the homemaker said.

One of the first promises made by the Trinamul government was to ensure parity between the state and central boards, something that the erstwhile Left regime kept on the backburner for years.

The Higher Secondary math and science syllabi were to be remodelled by 2010 in accordance with a set of guidelines drawn up by the Union human resource development ministry for all state boards. The idea was to establish uniform syllabi in the two subjects across states so that a section of students weren’t disadvantaged when sitting for entrance tests.

Indrani Ganguly, principal of Shri Shikshayatan School, said her institution’s decision to make the switch was driven by demand for a more relevant curriculum.

Some of the schools in transition have started training their teachers for the changes in syllabus, teaching methods and evaluation. “The switch would be of little use unless our teachers are trained to teach the CBSE syllabus properly,” principal Ganguly said.

South Point School, run by the M.P. Birla Education Trust and one of the most sought-after private English-medium schools under the state boards, was granted affiliation by the CBSE in March 2011. As of now, students can choose which syllabus to follow.

A decade ago, St. Xavier’s Collegiate School had started the trend by applying for and getting ICSE/ISC affiliation. Loreto House and Modern High School for Girls followed.