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Back to Class X Board exams (The Hindu)

The excellence of a school education system must be assessed by the creative individuals it produces. That principle can be the only meaningful guide for the Central Board of Secondary Education, as it once again tweaks its testing system to make the Class X Board examination compulsory for all students from 2018. It is wrong to believe that students in the CBSE system are not being assessed with sufficient rigour: the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) method that it follows is aimed at identifying learning difficulties periodically and instituting remedial measures, rather than raising stress with a make-or-break public examination at the secondary level. This philosophy helps students master various topics and discover their aptitude in the course of a year, eliminating the chances of a single rote-learning test that could produce an aberrant result. The gains of such a system should not be thrown away in the quest to bring about ‘uniformity’ in the Class X education pattern across the country. If anything, it is learning outcomes and creative brilliance assessed through non-ritualistic aptitude tests that should rate the capacity of an educational board. Such an approach would also encourage teachers to innovate conceptually, rather than drill students to face an examination.
The argument in favour of a compulsory Class X Board examination made by Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar is that its absence discriminates against candidates of State boards. In fact, the Minister announced his intent of returning to a compulsory Board examination well before the CBSE governing body formally announced it. The logic, however, is flawed. Uniformity militates against creative educational methods, and a test that is no more than a straitjacket crushes the initiative of teacher and student. The CBSE would, therefore, do well to avoid homogenisation, and retain sufficient scope for true learning. This can be done by giving the CCE system — which the Board calls a balance between incessant tests and a single annual assessment — equal weightage, even if all students take a Board examination for Class X. As the CBSE puts it, over-dependence on a single examination deprives the learner of motivation and opportunities for reflection on his or her work. It also does not find favour with the National Curriculum Framework 2005 that emphasised greater flexibility for teachers to decide on how to train students in concepts and help them learn at their own pace. What India needs is a school-level assessment method to identify actual learning that would remove barriers to students freely migrating across State boards.
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