Since the beginning of the year, they have been waiting anxiously to be presented with a fait accompli in India. Finally, some long overdue clarity for outgoing students of class 12 in CBSE schools who have been oscillating between uncertain board examination and the certainty of college admissions.
In a first, a 40:30:30 scoring formula will be applied for their final score in school, the weightage is not just from class 12, but respective scores of classes 11th and 10th in a lesser percentage will also come into play.
It isn’t ideal especially since children did not have any prior notice — but then nothing is at the moment and given the circumstances, CBSE seems to have come out with a tenable solution. Many students though aren’t comfortable with the weightage for class 11, a lull year where they catch their breath between the two stormy board years. I don’t envy them their position, but they have the option to appear for the exams in person later in the year.
Result Committees and fears of cheating
Each educational institution has been asked to form a Result Committee with 5 members, CBSE says an IT system is also being developed to partly automate the evaluation process and historical data of schools will be the reference point, something that should help alleviate fears of internal cheating or parents putting pressure to influence the scores.
In all this the big question remains- what took the CBSE so long to cancel the boards when the writing was on the wall all along?
Over 10 million students who should have been clocking memories for posterity of their final school year have instead sat home in isolation, without any physical activity, staring at a monitor and yet seldom complaining. But that is no indicator of how many have been holding on to their mental health by the barest of threads and the CBSE board did them great disservice by delaying the inevitable.
Keeping that uncertainty going for the children has not just been unfair but it is also a reflection of a very traditional mindset where marks have scored over almost everything else. Educationists that I spoke with remain equally clueless about the board’s compulsions to delay the announcement.
For decades our education has focused on teaching by rote, our system of imparting knowledge has not been receptive to students thinking for themselves. When my daughter was four years old, her teacher complained that she wasn’t using big words in school. Later, when she wanted to be in a dance show, she was forced to do drama.
Unfortunately, just as things were in a transformative phase including the introduction of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the pandemic came back with a vengeance. These students have seen the death of their teachers, principals and witnessed close families in distress, if not their own.
A parent told me how she was obsessive about her son’s marks even when COVID-19 initially hit. A year and a half later when her son locked himself up after the death of his tutor and refused to eat or speak, the mother says she has learnt a tough lesson: marks are not everything.
Huge pressure on stutents and parents
Our education system — 840,000 recognised schools are just for primary education — was never made for the weak-hearted, a case in point the suicides over the years by some students once results are announced. Children and their parents hunkering down for a couple of months and neither coming up for air till the last exam is finished is such a beaten path that it is understood — there is only one path to take.
Will the board and the government utilise this moment to rethink our evaluation policy? Experts say the pandemic could be a game-changer with the new marking criteria having future offshoots but, only if those responsible, pause and take a step back. They are counting on a more progressive education that teaches our children to collaborate through engagement where life skills have a big role- the one big learning for all this last year.
From where I see it, this is a golden chance. How have 100% per cent marks with multiple toppers been normalised? A child who has hit the pinnacle at the age of 18 will find it tough to rise from the many future obstacles that are part of growing up.
A school principal told me that she hopes going forward this abominable system of evaluation is rationalised- “how can the entire capability of a child be defined only by marks”, she questions adding that this approach completely destroys children. She is not wrong, and yet, it is what has defined us for a long phase of our lives.
This is not to say the parents are absolved, no one gives more pressure than a family. Many adults still dream only of IIT for their child — Google Kota coaching classes to understand this lust.
Last, year after the results were announced, my Facebook timeline was nauseatingly flooded with children who had scored more than 90% in class 12. The posts were by their proud parents many of whom still constrain their child’s personal ambition to their myopic view. For these parents, ‘Great Expectations’ is more than just a book.
There are other concerns as well. Our education system was not fully equipped to go into online teaching and the divide between the rural and private schools was never more, stark.
The AAP government in Delhi though has revolutionised government schooling in the capital, schools that were usually dismissed as lowest in the hierarchy. Training teachers has also been a part of their outlook, something that needs a pan India approach given that going forward, a backup hybrid model may become a requirement.
There is no better time to look at long term reforms — it is ludicrous that we have even allowed it to go so far — a three-hour examination defining the future when even in a test match there is a bad day and a chance of a come back.
Jyotsna Mohan is the author of the investigative book ‘Stones, Shames, Depressed’. She was also a journalist with NDTV for 15 years.