Opinion, CBSE: An Opportunity for Change?

Writing exclusively for WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, Ambika Gulati, Prinicpal of GEMS The Millennium School asks whether the current crisis presents an opportunity for change within the Indian examination system. Would continuous assessment serve students better?
Opinion, CBSE: An Opportunity for Change?
By Jenny Mollon
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With the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) announcing the cancellation of the Grade 10 examination and the postponement of the Grade 12 examinations, we find that after the initial disappointment, our school communities are looking ahead and exploring ways in which we can support our students. The uncertainty regarding the timing of the Grade 12 examination is what most students are anxious about. Not knowing timelines, their concerns revolve around preparation time, with there being no visible end to the tunnel.

Schools understand the Indian government’s decision with regard to the postponement and cancellation of examinations, as the health and safety of our students is of paramount importance. However, we do need to put measures in place to ensure that our students of the batch of 2021 continue to feel connected with the school and their teachers, even though the new academic session has begun.

Schools have already begun counselling students and addressing their concerns. Full support is being provided through small group meetings, weekly assemblies and master classes. Special sessions for students who need extra academic support is being provided. Teachers are reaching out to individual students to understand their concerns so that these can be addressed appropriately.

With the current concerns in hand, I believe that the current scenario provides an opportunity to rethink, reimagine and redesign the examination system in India. It raises the larger question on the relevance of high-stake examinations in these classes. Do we really need them and if not, what is the alternative?


Ambika Gulati, Principal of GEMS The Millennium School

Against the earlier system of 10+2 year of school education, the National Education Policy, 2020 has articulated that grades 9 to 12 be seen as one composite segment from a curriculum perspective. Whilst the earlier system warranted an examination in Grade 10 as it was a checkpoint to enter the +2 years of schooling, under the new policy the need for a grade 10 national level examination may become redundant as students work at elements of the curriculum over a 4-year period.

When we examine the current scenario for Grade 12 students, we once again see some anomalies that could be addressed. At present, students who wish to seek admission into engineering, medical and law universities need to take an entrance examination that are conducted at an All-India level. This is in addition to the Grade 12 board examination.

With the National Education Policy, 2020 stipulating a National Testing Agency, we have 41 central universities of India coming together to implement the Central Universities Common Entrance Examination (CUCET) this year. The examination is likely to have two components that will test students’ aptitude in a range of skills, including reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, logical and analytical reasoning. The second part would include discipline specific questions. If higher education is moving towards entrance examinations, then do we really need a grade 12 high stake board examination, as students are being doubly burdened?

So, what could the possible alternative be with respect to board examinations? With the world moving into the fourth industrial revolution, and schools adopting personalised learning models with digital tools, it may be more suitable to have a continuous and comprehensive system of evaluation that caters to assessing not just content but also the skills and competencies of students as they progress through secondary school (grades 9 to 12).

School based assessments will allow schools to cater to the individual needs of students and use assessment as a tool to challenge and support learning. The last fourteen months have helped teachers become digitally savvy and find new ways of assessing student learning. The focus has been on assessment for learning and assessment as learning, using a wide range of strategies and tools. Students have found these assessments to be more meaningful, engaging and enriching. This could be that opportunity that educators have been waiting for to transform the assessment structure – will we let it slip or capitalize on it?

With thanks to Ambika Gulati, GEMS The Millennium School

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