The decision came close on the heels of the Centre announcing the cancellation of board exams for Class 12 CBSE students for the same reason. While many students were relieved by these decisions, academicians are now faced with a new challenge altogether. If students are not to be assessed based on the boards, then what option are teachers left with?
The Secretary of the TN School Education Department is being aided by stakeholders in the education space to arrive at a consensus on calculating marks. One of the suggestions is a merit-based progression for students. This means students could be marked based on how they scored in their term exams. States like Gujarat have pulled off merit-based progression after it cancelled the university exams, which has affected 9.5 lakh students, in the second, fourth and sixth semesters. The results are being arrived at by giving 50% weightage to internal assessments and 50% to performance in the previous semester.
Here in Tamil Nadu, teachers are still evaluating how to award marks to Class 10 students who were declared all pass earlier this year. Government schools that did not conduct such term exams will have a tough time grading students in the absence of a reference point. A hassle they are bound to face is that parents or candidates will not necessarily make their peace with the marks awarded to them. The reason is that most students tend to treat pre-board exams as a warm-up for the real exams. Cancelling the boards has ruined the prospects of hard-working students to find the culmination of their efforts for the past one year.
So what is a solution to this conundrum, where for the first time, an entire batch of students have bypassed boards and been promoted? And now that it’s happened, is it time for us to re-evaluate how students are put through standardised tests? The answers lie within our own education systems. In a TEDx Talk titled The Myth of the Average, Todd Rose, a US scientist working in development psychology, explains that “If we design learning environments for the average, odds are, we’ve designed them for nobody.”
For decades, India’s pedagogy has revolved around standardised testing as a measure of student’s progress. However, what this has entailed is a generation of rote learners who have excelled at the memorising and reproducing. There is little room for individual creativity, real-world application or problem solving during the school days. The last three years of school education are driven towards the lofty goals of clearing the boards and appearing for the competitive exams.
However, fundamental requirements, such as portfolio-based assessments, which take into account a student’s cumulative educational and co-curricular output during any given year, and the depth of learning, as expressed through projects and assignments, as well as social and emotional skill surveys, essential to building multi-dimensional personalities, are not given due credence in the Indian context.
Last year, UNESCO released a survey that said 2.4 crore children globally were likely to drop out of school due to the pandemic in 2020. As per the National Sample Survey Organisation’s 2017-18 household survey, there are 3.22 crore students in 6-17 year bracket who are out-of-school in India. Experts believe this number is set to double in a year’s time. A lot of hopes are riding on the New Education Policy 2020 which attempts to revamp our education system holistically by introducing aspects such as credits that allow students to cherry-pick courses at the university levels. In the meantime, schools will also have to begin examining ways to grade students, not just based on aptitude, but attitude as well.