What students want: exams

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 18.11.14
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New Delhi, Nov. 17: An International Students Day meeting between schoolchildren and India’s education minister left the country’s largest school board squirming when the youngsters gave a public thumbs-down to its vaunted new evaluation system.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) students asked human resource development minister Smriti Irani to restore the compulsory Class X board exam, made optional by her predecessor Kapil Sibal in 2011.

The board had picked about 100 toppers from a set of private schools and the government-run Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan for the meeting. They criticised the poor implementation of the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE), a system of assessment introduced in 2009 as an alternative to conventional exams.

Irani said the children’s views would be sent to the agencies concerned.

The unspoken context for the children’s demand was the unofficial pressure exerted by many CBSE schools on their pupils not to take the Class X boards — because those who do tend to skip CCE assessments in Class X.

“The absence of a board exam affects our preparations. In Class XII, we shall be confronted directly with the board exam without having been exposed to any serious exam before,” said Aditya Jain, a Class XI pupil from Modern School.

“Most students copy material from the Internet to do their CCE projects. They don’t later remember what they had copied,” said Veni Gupta, another student.

These sentiments run counter to an online survey’s finding of overwhelming support for the CCE among principals, teachers, parents and students early this year. Done by a government agency, the survey said the CCE had significantly reduced students’ fear of exams.

The first batch of students for whom the Class X boards were optional fared well in the compulsory Class XII board exam last year, achieving higher pass and 90- plus-score percentages from the previous year.

A CBSE official argued: “It’s natural that toppers (who met Irani) may not like the CCE, but most students prefer it.”

Deepanshu Utkarsh, from DPS R.K. Puram, said poor implementation of the CCE — made up of four “formative” and two “summative” assessments a year — had turned the students casual about their studies.

The formative assessment rates scholastic and co-scholastic proficiency through tests and assignments like quizzes, debates and projects. The summative assessment is a six-monthly written test of short and long-answer questions.

Neelam Gautam, from Tulip International School, said that NCERT textbooks did not prepare students for competitive exams.

“We have to study a lot of books from outside while preparing for exams like the Joint Entrance Examination, All India Pre-Medical Test, etc. These books should be revised,” she said.

Neelam said substandard textbooks were one reason why private coaching was flourishing.

The Right To Education Act prescribes the CCE in all schools till Class VIII. A committee recently highlighted the improper implementation of the CCE in state government schools across the country.