12th Board exams cancelled: CBSE’s faces corona challenge in grading students

The data we have at Heritage Schools shows that on an average a student makes a leap of around 20–25% over the grade 11 scores.

By Vishnu Karthik,

Over 1.25 million CBSE students are experiencing stress while waiting for an alternative grading system to take place instead of the cancelled Grade 12 exams. Not to mention the other 10-12 million students in other boards who are waiting to replicate CBSE’s final grading decision. Read to know how deep this crisis is. And what CBSE could do and shouldn’t do.

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We are a country that is obsessed with ‘board exams’. Grade 12 exams are called ‘high stake examinations’. But even this is an understatement for an exam obsessed country like India. In April 2019, around 20 students from Telangana committed suicide because they wrongly assumed they had failed not realising that there was technology glitch in calculating the state exam marks. That’s how high stakes board exams are in our country. Thus the decision taken by CBSE to cancel the exams, if not managed well, will have some tragic collateral damage.

Unlike other international curriculums, CBSE has not invested in valid and reliable internal year-round assessments (also known as formative assessments). In International curriculums, the formative assessments over grade 11 and grade 12 provides a fair prediction of a student’s performance in the final grade 12 exam. In CBSE, there is not much correlation between internal exams and final external exams.

For various legacy reasons, CBSE doesn’t have any credible formative assessments.

So what are the options CBSE is dabbling with? There is a report CBSE may use the last three year’s performance to arrive at the grade 12 score. This will be unfair to many students. The data we have at Heritage Schools shows that on an average a student makes a leap of around 20–25% over the grade 11 scores. The jump is more when compared to grade 10. One of the main reason is that most students tend to get more serious in grade 12 as they know that last minute effort is enough to ace CBSE exams. Students also do well in grade 12 as against grade 10 as they don’t have to study subjects which they don’t like.

Another option CBSE is dabbling with is asking schools to give a final grade based on their internal assessments. This will lead to significant grade inflation across schools as most schools will be liberal to their students. Unlike international curriculums, CBSE schools aren’t subjected to rigorous assessment audits, statistical moderations. There isn’t even a modicum of accountability in CBSE schools when they do internal assessments. Just look at the inordinate high grades students achieve in Grade 12 internal practical exams.

Any new solution CBSE now comes up with will be unfair to some section of students for all alternatives looks like a worse alternative. No new method of assessments will be seen as fair especially when a 1% mark will impact college admissions. The Ministry of Education should also direct all Indian Universities to delay their admissions process for this academic session. A truncated undergraduate program is a far better alternative than an unfair and unscientific admissions process.

There is also a minority but a growing number of grade 12 students who seek admissions abroad. Most international universities would not wait till September for the final grades. CBSE could provide an exception to students going abroad by issuing a marksheet based on internal assessments that can be used only in international universities.

CBSE should also learn from international curriculums to build institutional strength to develop valid and reliable around the year assessments as against one final exam. It should now use this crisis as an excuse to drive systemic accountability for internal and alternative assessments across its schools. After all, life can’t be dictated by a three-hour exam.

(The author is CEO, The Heritage School. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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