A common exam, on the lines of the American SAT, has been talked about for year now, but little has happened.
The second surge of Covid-19 and the lack of vaccines for children compelled the authorities to cancel XII board exams, including CBSE’s. However, the evaluation formula that CBSE has come up with—approved by the Supreme Court—may not be the best way to assess students’ performance. The CBSE’s proposal assigns a 30-30-40 weightage to the performance in Class X, Class XI and Class XII (in either one or more unit test, mid-term or pre-board exam). The final decision will rest with the Result Committee comprising the principal, two senior-most teachers of the school and two class XII teachers from a neighbouring school.
For the Class X performance, the three best scores—from any subject—are to be considered. To minimise school-level variations, schools will be required to moderate marks on the basis of historical performance in the board exams; the best performance in the last three years will be the benchmark. Bringing in Class X performance is a good idea because it assesses the calibre of the student over a longer period of time, with the focus being on foundational education. Most experts view Class XI as the year of ‘transition’, in which students, especially in the science stream, are introduced to a much larger and deeper syllabus across subjects than they had been used to so far, and this would likely have an impact on their scores. Indeed, usually, the first year of senior-secondary school is mostly about getting students accustomed to the syllabus and the pedagogic rhythm that so sharply differs from that of the secondary school years. Therefore, the weightage for Class XI scores could be lowered slightly and that for Class XII scores be raised commensurately. It would be pragmatic to base the score on an internal assessment during Class XII, with some concessions for the hurdles faced in online learning and digital exams that have marked the academic year affected by the pandemic.
While the idea to involve neighbourhood schools is perhaps meant to serve as a check against schools dressing up students’ performances, it also opens a window for perverse collaboration. The examination option for students dissatisfied by the proposed evaluation process would seem pragmatic, but two such sharply distinct evaluation methods may erode universal acceptance of results from either set, causing further confusion. The boards must come up with one uniform evaluation format.
Given Class XII marks mostly carry qualifying value for most entrances—though, in the case of admissions to courses under universities like Delhi University, they play a far more important role—the government would do well to shift to common entrance tests for university admissions. A common exam, on the lines of the American SAT, has been talked about for year now, but little has happened. Meanwhile, the Central Universities Common Entrance Test (CUCET), for undergraduate admissions to central and state universities, serves a mere 14 of the 45 central universities and just four state universities; the more reputed Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and BHU are yet to sign up for this. Addressing the pandemic impact on education calls for unconventional measures; the Centre and the states much work on this together.