Originally posted at Youthpad.
Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal recently stated that the government is thinking of doing away with the class 10th Board exams and making them ‘optional’, with just one Board exam in class 12th. In fact, Kapil Sibal also wants to do away with class 12th exams. Makes me wonder whether he’s doing all this just for publicity, now that people bother listening to him as the HRD minister instead of minister for science and technology. Frankly, I don’t think that’s a really good idea. I’m sorry if you’re someone studying in class 10th and below but listen kid, you really need that exam.
Sure, the Board exams do generate a bit of tension among students. That’s just how life is. Life throws challenges at you and you are supposed to learn to surmount those challenges. There isn’t a magic wand to wish away and make some challenge in life ‘optional’. A nationwide standardized exam helps everyone find out where they stand vis a vis a student in some other corner of the country or your classmate standing right next to you.
Let’s assume for a moment that this hare-brained scheme goes ahead and the class Xth Board exams are actually abolished. What exactly is that going to achieve in ‘reducing tension’? Absolutely nothing at all! In class 12th, students are thinking of what career they want to take up, what college they want to join, preparing for entrance exams for engineering / medical / law / others…and in that mix you want to say that giving the Board exams for the first time in your life is going to reduce tension?! I don’t think so. Doing away with in class 10th is simply postponing fate. As a student who’s passed out of school, I myself know that yes Board exams can make you nervous, but I was less jittery about it in class 12th because I’d already attempted a similar exam two years earlier. Having to sit for Board exams for the first time in your life in class XIIth is going to put an incredible amount of pressure on students when they have other things on their minds.
Many students currently studying in class 10th have said to me that they don’t get why they’re supposed to study this or that topic for their Board exams when it has nothing to do with what they want to do later in life. Look, the Board exams are not here to teach you skills that you need in your career – that’s what you go to college for. School (and the Board exams) are there to teach about things like getting your point across to someone you don’t know precisely and concisely, learning to analyse things and assigning importance to them (you’re gravely mistaken if you assign equal importance to all topics), learning to make study notes, learning to manage a schedule, et al. This is what education up to class 10th is about.
Class Xth Board exams also help you to choose streams to take up in the +2 leg of your schooling. During that year you realize “OK, so I’m interested [and / or] good at X subject but subject Y doesn’t interest me, so this is what I can consider taking as my stream.” Without a standard exam, it becomes difficult for students to find that out too. Each and every school’s exams and standards are pretty arbitrary and unique up to class 8 when they have a free reign. Without a standard syllabus even students won’t be able to find out whether they’re actually interested in a subject. Yes, I know about national curriculum guidelines for lower classes to but that’s just pure bollocks; no school really bothers following the national curriculum until the ‘spectre’ of Board exams comes up.
Am I trying to say that the current system is perfect and there’s nothing we need to do to make life even that tiny bit easier for those about to give Board exams? Of course not. There are a lot of educationists in this country who are genuinely working on making things better so let’s not be cynical about everything. CBSE is not out to ‘get you’. They are genuinely trying to change things but are often restricted by what can be practically implemented across every school under them. Look, I’ve been through that phase myself and I know how it feels. The major worry, at the end of the day, is along the lines of “I hope I get the marks I’m expecting”. Every year when the Board results are declared there’s lots of anguish about ‘top’ students getting lower marks than expected in some subject or the other (usual ‘culprit’ being English). Here are some ideas that I have:
- CBSE releases the marking scheme used to check papers a few months after Board results are declared to give students attempting the exam next year an idea of what they’re expected to write in the paper. How about releasing the marking scheme immediately after the Board exams? Students will be evaluate their own performance better and set realistic expectations about what marks they’ll be getting. Believe me, this goes a long way in reducing post-exam stress – when you really know how well you have done.
- As of now, only re-tallying of scores is allowed. Allow re-checking of papers but put a high price on it. By high, I mean something say Rs 1000-2000. This will help defray the cost of finding the darn paper again, hiring a higher level examiner, and also prevent frivolous rechecking applications.
- Well OK, who am I kidding. Even if the price for rechecking is kept at Rs 5000 per paper I’m sure anxious parents will flood CBSE with frivolous rechecking requests. So here’s the deal – have a good grievance redressing system in place. ICSE has a system where in case a student has a good track record in school and gets really bad marks (I’m not talking of 5-10 marks here – there have been cases where students got a mere 6 in some subjects in Boards) then they allow you to appeal that, and get it rechecked. Maybe something similar can be done by CBSE. Put stringent rules on what exactly is defined as a ‘good school track record’ and how much deviation from it would allow for an appeal, and then put in some rechecking mechanism. I don’t have any ‘scientific’ study to support this but I have a feeling that the most anxiety is within the top 1/8th or so candidates (defined in CBSE marking as A-grade). Such a system would go a long way in reducing tension.
- Counselling sessions for parents to be held by schools. Parents are often more stressed out than students and heap on their worries on their children. Again, not every school will have resources to do this – certainly not schools in smaller cities. But the point is that most ‘over-anxious’ parents happen to be from metro towns and while they might consist of a small fraction of the number of parents with candidates appearing for the exam, it is still a large number. Schools in big cities should take the initiative in this regard and hold a few counselling sessions for parents in a year. I’m not talking about PTA meetings. Get the school top faculty, professional education counsellors and then have a seminar on dispelling doubts, teaching them to handle stress, etc. This will help reduce instances of students being pushed to the edge / being compelled to call helplines. (Helplines are good though. If you’re a student or parent feeling stressed out then go ahead and call CBSE helpline.)
So what exactly is my point of writing all this? Exercising my right to free speech is fine but what do I get out of this? “Wow, a blog post has been written. Big deal.” The point here is that change is brought about by discussion. Spread the word. Discuss with your friends, parents, relatives, teachers about what can be done better. Don’t stay with a chalta hai attitude. Bounce some ideas around. Refer them to this article if you want. Start a riot in the comments section. Whatever you do, primary goal is start a discussion which finally brings about change. It doesn’t matter if this article reaches out to only one person or you can reach out to only one person (especially if that one person is a parent or a teacher) – if it somehow makes something better for someone somewhere, this article would have achieved it’s objective.