The Dawn Of A New Era For Education In India
School is the place where a child experiences its first interactions with the outside world. Seen in this perspective, school education is of prime importance for the all-round development of children, because it is where they first access the requisite know-how essential for standing up to the demand of modern lifestyles. Nowadays, according to opinions expressed by various experts, the existing education system in India has become somewhat outdated.
In addition, excessive workloads have made it very rigorous for the students. Children today are perennially handicapped by the lack of time, as they are made to work extremely hard in schools. On top of that, there are exams at regular intervals, which make life all the more miserable for the children. Life of the present-day has become stress personified, which can have various adverse effects on their overall personality traits in later years. Authorities have been giving it a thought for a long time as to whether a qualitative change can be brought about as far as the lives of the young schoolchildren are concerned. Also, the need for changing the existing system, which puts a premium on rote learning, was being felt for quite some time. As a result of this, a school examination system designed to reduce stress and bring India on a par in quality with international educational standards has been recently introduced in India. The new system will truly come into its own when in 2011, the Class X boards will be done away with for good.
Union Human Resource Development Minister Mr. Kapil Sibal announced on September 7, 2009 the inauguration of the new education system. As per the announcement, beginning 2011, Class X board examinations will become a thing of the past. Instead, students will be promoted to the senior secondary level through an internal assessment. Since the decision was taken in the middle of the academic year, students studying in Class X in the ongoing economic session will have to appear in the board examination as scheduled, but they will be graded instead. In this regard, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) said that the students will be graded into nice categories, from exceptional to unsatisfactory.
Initially there were indications that students changing school after Class X would have to appear for the board examination. However, later it became clear that they would appear for an online / offline on demand assessment and would be issued certificates on pre-printed stationery supplied by the CBSE and attested by the boards’ regional offices.
The most significant aspect of the new development is that the CBSE has worked out a system of “Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE)”. This will be done through two formative assessments per term and one end-of-term assessment. For this, the academic year will be divided into two terms-the first one ending in October, and the second one in March. The formative assessment will carry 40 percent weight in the final assessment. This can be in the form of quizzes, conversations, interviews, projects, practical and assignments. The final assessment graded test, which will carry marks worth 60 percent, will be conducted internally with question papers made out of a Question Bank provided by the CBSE. Besides the Board is currently evolving an aptitude test which will aimed at addressing the fears of parents regarding a “board-less” Class X. It is worth mentioning in this regard that parents feared that in the absence of an external examination, it would be difficult for the students to make the correct choice of steam of higher secondary education, Besides, to dispel fears about the credibility of the internal assessment system a major concern of parents the board has decided to put in place a mechanism for random verification of the assessments done by schools. There will be a provision for random sampling of the CCE certificates as well.
The CBSE is designing the aptitude test in such a manner that the students will have taken it twice before completing secondary school once at the end of Class IX and then at the end of Class X. The aptitude test, along with other school records and the CCE, will help the students decide the subjects for Class XI.
As has already been mentioned, the system will basically comprise processes aimed at continuous and comprehensive evaluation. Such evaluation will not only take into account the academic performance of the child but will also focus on scholastic and co-scholastic activities. Scholastic areas would be include work experience, art education, general knowledge, computer science and the like. On the other hand, co-scholastic areas would include life skills like thinking, social and emotional skills; attitude towards teachers, schoolmates, programmes, public property; creative and scientific skills, etc. In this context, it may be mentioned here that some concerned quarters are apprehensive about the challenge of grading students on aspects such as thinking and emotional skills, attitude towards teachers, schoolmates and public property, etc. It is likely to take some time before on can comprehensively fathom the effectiveness quotient of such a grading system.
There is a provision of a slight deviation from the norms for States where the CBSE schools run till Class X. In such States where students have to enter pre-university, they can specially ask the Board for marks. As for example, in Maharashtra, many CBSE students prefer to opt for pre-university after Class X since such a practice makes it easier for them to get admission to undergraduate courses. In such cases, if a student wants to switch to the State boards after the completion of Class X, the system will provide the original marks in terms of numbers.
It may be recalled at this point that many international examination systems such as the International Baccalaureate and the General Certificate for Secondary Education in the UK subscribe to the grading system instead of the usual marking system that is prevalent in various other nations. In the US, a student at the end of school (that is Grade 12) gets a high school diploma. Students are graded from A to F and evaluated through assignments, tests, quizzes, etc. In the UK, Class X students take examinations in a range of subjects. There are seven to nine subjects and children are graded on he basis of their performance.
It has already been mentioned that there are some apprehensions in some quarters regarding the effectiveness of the proposed new system. The apprehensions stem from a number of solid reasons. In the regard, a very pertinent question comes to mind with virtually no time left for imparting adequate training to teachers, students and parents, is the new system really ready to be implemented? For instance, as regards the subject of English, wherein child would tested through observation (direction, fluency, content knowledge, etc.), the teacher would have to take into consideration many things, which may really be a huge task. For impartial grading, a teacher will have to properly and carefully watch each and every student and be aware of all his strengths and weaknesses. However, basically due to the size of the average classroom where there are about 50 students in the Indian context teachers will really have a gargantuan task at hand. In this regard, experts have opined that the sheer number of students, and the requirement of in-depth analysis together make it a mammoth task. Another problem area is that since each teacher tends to think differently, the assessment stands the risk of being subjective, which is not a very welcome aspect. Now a word about the prospect of added workload on teachers. In the Delhi government schools, for instance, there is a shortage of 1,000 teachers at the senior school level. it is anyone’s guess whether CBSE has the requisite resources and the capacity to provide the required training to 1.6 lakh teachers teaching in Class IX and X across 11,000 schools affiliated to it. Some pertinent statistics will probably make the point more clear. 8.24 lakh students took the Class X board exam in 2009 and almost the ongoing academic session. This highlights the need for a total overhaul of the situation before the new system could be efficiently implemented.
The best part about the proposed education system is that it aims at replacing the prevalent system of rote learning, which can by no means be a desirable method of learning. But while implementing the new system, the authorities should exercise enough caution and discretion so as not to such things. In case of such large-scale and ambitious projects, the most important thing to be kept in mind is that the ground should always be properly prepared beforehand. Otherwise, there is a high risk quotient of eventual failure. In case of the new system, the authorities should be mindful of the fact that although the prevalent system seems to have run its course in India, it may still be a bit early for a total overhaul of the same. The need for adequate training of the stokeholds has already been mentioned, and this is really very important factor for the success of the proposed system. If the authorities can successfully address this particular problem, there is no reason why this ambitious scheme will not able to change the face of the education sector in India.