With the two national school examination boards—the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) announcing the Class X and class XII examinations 2024 schedule, the focus and energies of students, parents and schools are completely concentrated on the ensuing examination season for the first four months of 2024. The CBSE practical Exams begin from Jan 1.
While this annual exercise may sound routine as an annual affair, yet there is already a behind the scenes reform process that may change the face of these ‘feverish’ and ‘stressful’ but ‘decisively important’ examinations from next year itself. The Performance Assessment, Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development or PARAKH, set up in February 2023 as part of NCERT, is coming up as an examinations regulator in its own right and is working toward bringing “equivalence” between all school boards. As per sources in the agency, it is at an advanced stage of finalization of the template and recommendations for bringing about parity in 60 school boards in India this year itself and by 2026, the parity will become a reality.
The parity has been a long-standing reform necessitated by high cut-offs in college admissions with increased student mobility across states while different examination boards apply varying marking approaches resulting in some boards awarding more marks than others. With the centralized admission related entrance examination like JEE, NEET and now CUET creating a situation of one nation, one entrance test, under the National Testing Agency (NTA), the parity demand now spans for curriculum as well after the NTA and UGC affirmed that questions for these tests are based on NCERT textbooks and syllabus of class XII.
Even though education is a concurrent subject under Constitution, the states seem to have come around the idea and some states having separate boards for class 10 and 12, have started merging them. The parity process and the focus that it brings may energize them in the medium term. According to a recent statistic the number of students who have failed to qualify the Class 10 exam has increased in the last four years — it was 109800 in 2019, 100812 in 2020, which decreased to 31196 in 2021 but jumped drastically to 117308 in 2022. All this is worrying, and states seem to agree to institutional examination reforms.
Meanwhile, the CBSE for long accused of lenient markings on November 30, 2023, issued a clarification saying, ‘No overall division/distinction/aggregate shall be awarded’. The notice also clarified that if the percentage of marks is required for higher education or the employment, the calculation if any, may be done by the admitting institution or the employer. It is pertinent to note that under CBSE scheme 20 marks are with the schools as internal assessment in case of Maths and 30 in case of subjects needing practical examination or project work and schools have been accused of manipulation in this.
“CBSE has been following this for the past 10 years. CBSE mark sheets don’t mention percentages, distinctions, divisions, state toppers, etc. The importance of this reinforcement is because there is a misconception that the coming of CEUT means Board exams of 10th and 12th don’t have value. CBSE has also issued a circular saying that the credit-based system will come, where students will have to total of 160 credits from class 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th. These credits will add up to the child’s qualification in universities. CBSE with these circular discredits the system of percentages, divisions and marks, but still upholding the importance of board exams in the credit system,” says Naman Jain, Director, Silverline Prestige School, Ghaziabad.
“The recent CBSE decision to not award divisions or distinctions comes as a welcome change and an important step towards realizing the essence of NEP 2020. Also, if a candidate has appeared for more than five subjects, the decision to determine the best five subjects to be taken by the admitting institution is a welcome change. However, there could be concerns about how this decision might affect students’ motivation and the recognition of their achievements. But to me, more than such a concern, if this helps in a focus on overall learning rather than just exam performance, fostering a more balanced educational environment, ultimately moving away from rote learning and also help reduce the intense competition that students often experience during board exams, this decision can work out in favor of every child,” adds Sanyogita Sharma – Director, Manav Rachna International Schools.
In the overall scheme of things, the board examinations are changing for better at least from the point of view of learning outcomes and shifting away from a marks centric system that has in reality taken away the sheen from school education and childhoods. The competency learning to skilling, two exams in a year and moving to credit system—all in theory seems going in the right direction. But the challenges always remain in implementation and changing aspirations. … By Autar Nehru