It is learnt that the HRD Ministry of India is considering the reintroduction of mandatory Class X board examinations for students of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).
The CBSE is the country’s largest education board for school students and runs more than 18,000 schools. Before 2011 the class 10 board exam was mandatory, for the approximately 1.5 million students CBSE students across the country, as it was considered to be a kind of preparatory exam for the more important class 12 school leaving exam.
Because of protests by all in the year 2011 the board had made the test optional, leaving it to the students to decide whether they wanted to opt for the board exam or go for just a school assessment. Parents and students heaved huge sighs of relief as the pressure on young minds was toned down. Many students opted out of the board exams believing that school tests are easier.
The HRD ministry instead, introduced a Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE), a grading process. This was to reduce the exam tensions in students and is still being used in schools.
However, according to educators this is not working out so well, neither for students nor for teachers. A large number of school students end up failing in class 11 because the evaluations of class 10 are so much easier. They also feel that students are demotivated to work hard and compete with each other because of the grading system.
Now it is being said that CBSE is to revert to the old system and that board exams will be made mandatory from the year 2018. The final decision will be taken by HRD minister Prakash Javadekar tomorrow on October 25.
The Union human resource development minister will take the call after a discussion with the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) on Tuesday. The CABE is the highest advisory body for the Centre and state governments on education, and has representation from a number of states.
“A broad consensus on it already exists, but a final decision will be taken in the CABE meeting,” said Mahendra Nath Pandey, junior minister in the HRD ministry, making it seem a done deal already.
However, there are some students, parents and teachers who feel that by making the Board exam mandatory again, we will be taking a step backwards. They feel that the freedom to choose for both students and teachers would be lost.
It is true that the CBSE board exams for class 10 cause a lot of pressure on students. Students and parents obsess about it as it is taken as a precursor to the dreaded class 12 exams. Children in the age group 13 to 15 have to endure the admonishments of parents as well as teachers to study, study, study so as to get high marks. Doesn’t the quality and meaning of education thus suffer?
The pressure becomes such that parents do not want the child to take part in any other activities. This hampers their all round development and makes life inane for them at a time when they need excitement, participation in extra-curricular activities and interaction with their peers.
This exam centred thinking puts children on the treadmill early in life and causes them to believe that competition is the be all and end all of all studying throwing them off balance. They lose out on the inspiration, creativity and the joy in life and learning. The pressure makes education for them just a chore instead of an interesting exploration of the world around them. They do not develop into free-thinking, positive, well developed personalities.
What about the concern that students become lackadaisical when the grading system is in place? Perhaps there is something wrong in the way education is being imparted? There needs to be a serious rethink of why students would lose interest in studies if examinations are removed from the equation. After all they are not studying just to give exams but to acquire knowledge in a meaningful way.