Indian School Exam Overhaul from 2021

The Ministry of Human Resource Management has apparently recommended that the current 10+2 structure in Indian schools should be replaced with a new structure, less focused on examinations and more on enabling students to focus on 'core concepts, skills and high order capacities.'
Indian School Exam Overhaul from 2021
By Lyn Soppelsa
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The education authorities in India are set to introduce radical change which could see significant changes made to final examinations. 

India's Human Resources Development Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, is understood to have given approval to the National Education Policy committee to work on a revised evaluation module.

The NEP, in June this year, recommended a revised '5-3-3-4' structure, consisting of five years of Foundation stage (three years of Pre-primary school and Classes One and Two), three years of Preparatory stage (Classes Three to Five), three years of Middle stage (Classes Six to Eight), and Four years of Secondary stage (Classes 9 to 12).

The Ministry is expected shortly to communicate to the Indian School Boards that they should do away with the 10+2 format which has been at the heart of the school education system since 1968.

With input from Education experts, the NEP committee proposed the new structure along the lines of an international school-based evaluation process, which assesses a student on the basis of their class-based performance. The committee noted that the current board examinations 'force a student to concentrate only on a few subjects without providing scope to learn in a formative manner, which ultimately causes stress among students.' The committee recommendation stated that:

"To track students’ progress throughout their school experience, the draft policy proposes State Census Examinations in Classes Three, Five and Eight. Further, it recommends restructuring the board examinations to test only core concepts, skills and higher order capacities. These board examinations will be on a range of subjects. The students can choose their subjects, and the semester when they want to take these board exams. The school final examinations may be replaced by these board examinations."

The Indian government intends to finalise the NEP by October 2020, with the policies being implemented from 2021.

Further significant changes are also proposed for schools in India with the Ministry also considering extending the ages of free learning under Right to Education (RTE) act from 14 years to 18 years.

"As proposed by the draft NEP committee, the ministry is working to include early childhood education and secondary school education under the ambit of the RTE Act. This would extend the coverage of the Act to all children between the ages of three to 18 years," the official mentioned.

Indian educators in the UAE, responding to the Khaleej Times’ report seemed to be cautiously positive about the proposed changes. Rashmi Nandkeolyar, Principal and Director of Delhi Private School Dubai, said: "It's a great idea to not rely on a high stakes examination which only spurs cut-throat competition, stress and sometimes depression in children. However, standards will have to be maintained. The result should be better and meaningful learning and not watered down standards."

Lalitha Suresh, Principal and CEO of GEMS Our Own Indian School, said the school does not conduct exams for lower primary as they have only cyclic assessments. "There should be more focus on in-depth learning rather than superficial learning that leads to rote learning. We need to focus on students' experiential learning and ways to assess what they know, what they can apply and how they can sustain their learning rather than what they can remember. We need to wait and see how different boards adapt this towards assessing student learning," she said.

Shanta Viswanathan, Vice-Principal at Our Own High School, Al Warqa'a, Dubai said: "The idea sounds ambitious as it will rid students and schools of rankings, comparisons and competitions that are attached to exams. However, a radical change is required before we move on to the no exam system. Class sizes need to reduce to enable individual attention to the development of learners. Schools need to prepare children on how to learn and not how to face tests and exams. There needs to be a conscious shift from content to skills."

Irrespective of school and curriculum structure, it seems that Principals in Indian curriculum schools in the UAE agree that the focus has to be on developing students' enquiry and learning skills, the application of learning and the ability to sustain learning, rather than the inevitable rote learning and teaching to the test which has too long been a focus of the current system.

That view would bring the education system into line globally. At the launch of the Wellness Census in Dubai recently, Dr. Abdulla Al Karam, Director General of the KHDA, stated that schools need to focus less on exams, and more on wellness as a whole, noting that "Exam results [become] less important [as we grow older], but wellbeing [rises in] importance”.

GEMS Education advisor, Sir Anthony Seldon, more recently told that parents need to stop "harassing their children, or worse, ‘brutalising them’ with a ‘sick obsession’ with exam results, an obsession that inflicts long-term damage to their child's mental health".

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