With hardly two weeks to go for the all-important board exams, Ashok Ganguly, Chairman of the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) dropped a bombshell. He unveiled a new question paper pattern that will cover 30 per cent marks. He was generous with information. He said the model papers were available in the market and the CBSE website and the students can start preparing accordingly.
The teachers, parents and students were too stunned to react. By the time they overcame the shock, they were too busy preparing the students for the new pattern to respond. When Organiser sought reaction from a cross section of these most affected people many used unprintable expletives for Ganguly.
Ganguly announced that 10 per cent of the question paper will have questions for short answers and 20 per cent would be for Higher Order of Thinking Skills (HOTS). This is to test the analytical skills rather than memorizing capacity of students. The questions would be based on concepts and would involve the student to apply them to arrive at the answer.
When asked if a student could still score high, Ganguly said ?those students who are able to get 100 out of 100 are better than the teachers,? as if that is what is being put to test.
Over 13 lakh students are appearing for the board exams this year. While 7,65,095 students would appear for the class X exam 5,48,815 would for the class XII, which begin on March 1.
The teachers of class X and XII who are regulars at the seminars called by the CBSE from time to time said they were equally stunned by the announcement. Many teachers who had attended a seminar in Delhi as late as December 2007, by when the question papers would have been set, or at least the pattern finalised said nothing was mentioned at the meeting about a new question paper pattern.
The teachers also said the CBSE had announced a couple of days before the new pattern disclosure that the number of chances for a student to clear the board exam was being increased from three to five. They questioned the timing of the two announcements and the possible significance behind it. ?Are they sending a message to students that it is going to be tougher to pass?? they asked.
A science teacher wanting to remain anonymous said while there was general agreement that the present teaching and exam system emphasised largely on students learning by rote, a new system could not be introduced like this without sufficient notice. It would be sheer injustice with a whole batch of students, she felt.
The Union HRD Ministry, under whom education comes, has been running rudderless with a minister who is too old and is perpetually absent from the office. In the vacuum of political accountability, the bureaucrats and heads of institutions like Ganguly are taking decision that have long-term and nation-wide ramifications without going through any transparent method of decision making. In this new question paper pattern, neither the teachers nor the students/parents bodies were consulted. The decision apparently comes from the Board of Governors of the CBSE, whose members are not known to the ordinary public or are not available for comments and questioning. A couple of years ago, the CBSE introduced 20 per cent marks for internal assessment. The children from public schools scored high in this as it takes into account the projects, the general performance and the maintenance of copies etc. This has resulted in the smart students going to the exam hall with already more than 15 per cent in their mark sheets. In fact the HOTS is being seen as some as a ?counter move? to the internal assessment system. When that was introduced, then also the parents and teachers had complained that it gave an unfair leverage to the school and spawned favouritism. Ganguly'scomment that the new pattern will distinguish the ?best from the rest? has given severe heartburn to students. They feel that the goalpost has been shifted after the whistle was blown and they were expected to walk away with the trophy. ?Very unfair? said the students in chorus, trying to hide their nervousness. The least the CBSE can do to undo the damage is to give a blanket 20 grace marks to all the students. Is someone listening?