14 September 2009

CBSE Board Exams

Recently there have been media reports that Class X Public Examinations conducted by Central Board of Secondary Education, New Delhi, are going to be optional in its affiliate schools with effect from 2010.

Instead of making Class X examinations optional, emphasis should be on more important issues like school quality, curricular load and better assessment methods in the Board exams.

Although the K-12 syllabus is developed and prescribed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training, CBSE should coordinate with NCERT and come up with more quality-oriented syllabus incorporating easily measurable knowledge, skills and attitudes. As CBSE and NCERT are like two wheels of a bicycle, it is important that they function in synchrony with each other.

As a professional who has spent over 30 years in school education at different levels in different countries including India, I think that these two agencies need to pull up their sleeves and bring in improvements by systematically analyzing best practices in different countries. We have witnessed several education commissions suggesting reforms, but none of them have been translated into reality. Instead of developing strategies based on hypothetical intentions, however good they may seem to be, we should look at issues at realistic angles, hold discussions with representatives of all stakeholders concerned with school education, take up structured quality oriented studies, record the findings, analyze as to what have gone wrong and explore strategies for trouble shooting and improvement, develop draft proposals and implement pilot projects. Most importantly, these projects should be finalized only if they are proven to have made an impact on the beneficiaries (students, job market, institutes of higher learning and the community).

I recall one instance when I had been a center superintendent for Class X CBSE exams in Chennai, in March 2005. There was an ambiguous question in the Hindi question paper. As I had the moral obligation of getting it clarified from CBSE and intimating it to the examinees, I phoned the designated spokesperson, based in Bangalore, in accordance with the CBSE rules. The spokesperson asked me to speak in Hindi and read the question as it was printed in the question paper. Fortunately, I was able to explain to him by reading the ambiguous question and got the clarification passed on to the candidates. What would have happened if I never knew Hindi? At that time, as far as I knew, there was no mandatory requirement that school principals (who used to be Center Superintendents) needed to possess a functional knowledge of Hindi.

Coming back to Class X Exams, I think that the main problem is not the Exam itself, but it is the pressure exerted on children due to quantity driven curriculum, teaching learning resources (print as well as multimedia) and methods. These should be developed to be more stakeholder-friendly. An important step in this direction would be to empathise with children.

While it cannot be denied that CBSE and NCERT have taken several pioneering steps within the Indian context, such as implementation of Mathematics laboratories and posting of textbooks online as freedownloads, these two Agencies should try to prioritize their agenda and team up with stakeholders so that they can come up with very effective mechanisms in the K-12 scenario.

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About Me

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Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
I am a K-12 Education Management Professional turned freelance Education writer. I have worked at different levels in K-12 school systems, textbook publishing, elearning and Education NGOs. I have held memberships in The Association for Science Education (UK), American Association of Physics Teachers and The Malaysian Institute of Physics. I hold a 1st class B Sc Degree in Physics followed by B Ed [English and Physical Science] and M A [Childcare and Education] degrees. My published works include 59 articles in teacher development magazines in India and the US and a book entitled `Creative Classrooms and Child Friendly Schools' (listed in Amazon). This book is almost an anecdotal account of my professional experience in six countries (including Cambodia where I worked as Technical Adviser to the Ministry of Education, Youth And Sports). I served as mentor in the Certificate of Teaching Mastery Program offered by Teachers Without Borders.