Opinion: Charu Jain
The evaluation criteria proposed by CBSE is flexible enough to accommodate concerns of students.
With the central government deciding to cancel the Class XII examinations a majority of state education boards and stakeholders welcomed the move in view of the safety of students and teachers. However the cancellation policy also introduced uncertainty on how students are going to be evaluated and how college admissions will take place.
The recent announcement by the CBSE on the evaluation criteria has brought clarity on this issue. Students will be evaluated based on their performances in Classes X XI and XII using weights of 40-30-30 — 40 per cent of the marks will be based on all or either of the unit Class XII tests mid-terms or pre-board exams 30 per cent will be based on the theory component of the Class XI final exam and the remaining 30 per cent will be based on average theory component of best three performing subjects out of the main five of Class X. This formula will be used to compute the theory marks for students which will be then added to marks scored in internal assessments and practical during Class XII to be calculated according to the existing policies.
The announcement is bound to evoke mixed reactions. Online examinations could have been one option but this approach is fraught with infrastructural challenges. There is the rural-urban divide and the gender and socio-economic digital divide in terms of lack of access to digital devices. Limited access to internet connectivity and frequent power failures have been the most commonly cited barriers in online education.
Given the strict marking followed in Class XI evaluations or lax attitude of students some might be of the view that the new method should have considered only classes X and XII marks as both come under the purview of board examinations. But here also one has to consider that subjects taught in class XI are equally important as it builds the basis for class XII subjects. But yes instead of giving 30 per cent weightage to Class XI theory subjects it could have been slightly lower giving more weightage to either Class X or XII assessments as students take these two years more seriously.
Students who have worked hard throughout the academic session of class XII might feel a bit unconvinced with this decision as they would have preferred a formula based more on internal evaluations as conducted by schools including the pre-board results and the practical exams. But again that criteria would have been completely unfair towards those students whose families were affected due to pandemic and were not in the position to perform well in either of their internal exams pre-boards practical during the academic session but might otherwise be bright students.
It was important to balance the situation of students falling in different categories as ignoring any one of these might pose serious and long-lasting consequences on their higher education and career prospects. In the current environment this formula is certainly the best bet for this academic year as college admissions are around the corner not to be delayed further.
The new formula while clearly communicating the message that students who have studied hard throughout these years are the most deserving has also inbuilt flexibility to increase the student’s satisfaction. For the class X component the average scores of the theory marks for the best three main subjects will be considered which is likely to increase their average score for class X than what they might have been if scored based on five subjects. For class XII the evaluation will be based on the performance in either one or more unit tests mid-terms or pre-board theory exams left to the discretion of the school’s result committee. Certainly schools are likely to pick those options in which their students performed better. This is also likely to benefit students. Moreover it has been announced that if students are not satisfied with calculated scores then they can appear later for physical exams that will be conducted when the situation normalises. Those scores will then be considered as the final ones.
Students who fall short in one subject will be placed in the “compartment” category and will be given a chance to appear for exams to clear that subject. Those who fall short in more than one subject will be placed in the “essential repeat” category. To avoid inter-school variations in the assessment of internal examinations/unit test etc. a moderation policy has also been introduced so that no students remain disadvantaged due to differences in schools internal evaluation criteria. With so many options available within one formula this is certainly the most effective evaluation approach in the current situation when the safety of students and college admissions are of utmost priority.
While the formulaic based examination system helps us stem the immediate crisis we need to move towards an evaluation system that tests a student’s knowledge the understanding of concepts and applications in real life. It should help them transition to the world of higher studies and work imbibe cognitive socio-emotional and vocational skills. The transformation of the mainstream Indian education system is yet to begin.