Campuses respond: Not enough
The ICSE council on Friday announced a curtailed syllabus for Classes IX to XII for academic year 2020-21, but students complained the reduction was insignificant because for the past three months they were dependent only on online classes and a large portion of the syllabus was untaught.
Given the raging pandemic, the online classes are to continue and students are not sure whether these classes equip them enough to write the board exams early next year. A section of teachers echoed the students’ concern.
One of the main concerns is about practical classes in the science subjects. Students have not stepped into laboratories for months and to expect them to perform experiments based on simulations and demonstrations is a tall order, teachers across schools said.
The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), which conducts ICSE (Class X) and ISC (Class XII) exams, in a letter to the heads of the institutions, and later in a press release, said teachers should “transact the syllabus strictly according to the sequence of topics” and suggested another review of the syllabus.
“Heads of CISCE affiliated schools have been asked to ensure that the concerned subject teachers at the ICSE and ISC levels transact the syllabus strictly according to the sequence of topics given in the syllabus, so as to facilitate further reduction in syllabus, if required, depending on the situation of the pandemic in the country,” the council said in a release signed by Gerry Arathoon, the chief executive and secretary.
Students across institutions said the online classes had limitations because of poor connectivity. Clarification of doubts and engaging in a conversation during the class was difficult because on most occasions the microphones of students’ computers are on mute to cut the background noise.
“We often get disconnected from the class and cannot re-enter, which is troublesome because we miss out on things like the teachers marking the important portions or sums for the board exams,” said a Class XII student.
Teachers also agreed that it was difficult for them to understand whether students were following what was being taught.
“An online class is not like a physical classroom. We take longer to finish a topic and more time to understand whether the student is following... despite our best efforts we cannot understand whether the student is with us completely or not and there is a gap which teachers cannot deny,” said Suvosri Chakraborty, a physics teacher at The Heritage School.
The CISCE admitted that Covid -19 had impacted all aspects of life including “the educational life in schools”.
The council said: “Schools across the country have been shut for the past three months due to the lockdown. While a number of CISCE affiliated schools have tried to adapt to this changed scenario and have tried to keep alive the teaching-learning process through online classes, there has been a significant shortening of the academic year and loss of instructional hours.
“To make up for the loss in instructional hours during the current session 2020-21, the CISCE has worked with its subject experts to reduce the syllabi for all major subjects at the ICSE and ISC levels. Syllabus reduction has been done, keeping in mind the linear progression across classes while ensuring that the core concepts related to the subject are retained.”
However, many teachers said a “staggered syllabus reduction” might make things more difficult for students.
“If the students know in advance which are the portions that will be reduced, it will help them to focus on the remaining portions, especially at a time when online class is a challenge for many of them,” said Joeeta Basu, an economics teacher at a city school.
Several science teachers are worried about the practical classes that students are missing out on.
“Students should be doing the practicals on their own because only looking at demonstrations is a futile exercise. If there can be an extended session and practical classes can be accommodated, students will be benefited,” said Suroopa Chakraborty, a chemistry teacher at St James' School.
Several teachers said that more than a reduced syllabus, students would benefit with an extended session because that would give them more time to complete and be better prepared for the next level.
“Students should have a certain body of knowledge before they are going to the next class. More than drastically cutting down the syllabus, if students get some extra time to prepare there will be parity and they will be able to both cover the syllabus that is expected at their level and get more time to prepare,” said Melvin D’Souza, the senior school academic coordinator at St. Xavier’s Collegiate School, who teaches math and accounts.
Students appearing for competitive exams felt that reduction will not help them because they would in any way have to cover those portions to write those exams.