In short, Central Secondary Education plans to split the exam for 10th and 12th grade students into two parts
The long overdue school examination reform is finally here. This measure was forced by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which made collecting many test samples in closed halls far too risky. As expected, there was lively discussion and debate across the country as soon as the latest exam samples were released.
In short, the Central Council for Secondary Education plans to split the exam of 10th and 12th grade students (2021-2022) into two parts to be held in November-December 2021 and then March-April 2022. The first part consists of multiple choice questions (MCQs) that cover 50 percent of a streamlined curriculum, while the second will consist of short and long “essay-like” questions that cover the rest of the Sclayllabus.
The real question is whether this proposal by the CBSE is an improvement on the prepandemic formula of a single “board” exam. At first glance, the new pattern appears to be a reasonable solution in the current circumstances. But many teachers think that this formula would stand in the way of regular teaching and learning in the “board classes”. Exam-oriented as we are, year-round students are brought to master the technique of answering MCQs, while resourceful textbook publishers quickly come up with compilations of sample questions for students to use in advance of the boards. . Observation of student behavior over the past few years shows that most students will focus on practicing solving these MCQs rather than studying their curriculum in depth.
Meanwhile, several teachers are complaining about the negative impact of the curriculum division, despite the board’s assurances that “subject matter experts” would do so after examining the “interconnectivity of concepts and topics”.
The CBSE has endeavored to cover the various anticipated scenarios as it is well known that this Covid-19 pandemic is worryingly unpredictable. Many teachers have welcomed the alternatives given in advance, in case the pandemic situation remains unchanged at the given exam times. Others believe that there are too many “ifs and buts” and it would have been far less stressful for those affected if a single pattern had been prescribed regardless of the pandemic situation. In any case, it is unlikely that the pandemic situation will be uniform across the country at any given time.
According to the prescribed flexible scheme, the respective weighting of the two tests would be based on the respective circumstances of the respective pandemic state. Therefore, the students do not know exactly whether their exams take place online or offline, in external examination centers or in their respective school and whether the essay-like questions are asked after all or whether they are all MCQs.
Another probability is that there will be no board examinations and the results will depend solely on the assessment of the work in the respective schools of the students.
Another ongoing debate is the effectiveness of MCQs. Everyone accepts that MCQs allow testing of a larger portion of the curriculum and the standardization of such tests is far more reliable than the essay format. The labeling is inherently neutral and can even be done with the help of optical readers to avoid human errors and enable faster processing. In addition, students are not unjustly punished for poor language. Studies have been conducted to show that higher order thinking skills can be assessed by properly established MCQs. Some studies that use factor analysis conclude that MCQs and essay-type questions score the same thing. However, this conclusion has not been widely accepted (Hickson and Reed) and there is a strong belief that essays contain components of student learning that cannot be measured by the MCQs.
Even without reference to scientific studies on the comparative effectiveness of MCQs and essay-like questions, experienced teachers complain that students cannot express themselves clearly, conclusively, or eloquently if they get too used to ticking boxes. Furthermore, there is no leeway to be “partially correct” since in an MCQ answer the principle of marking is all or nothing. It is possible to get a correct answer by guessing as the student does not need to justify it. But in an essay, a student can earn grades for defending a certain point of view that may not coincide with the expected response. In one particularly heated discussion that I happened to witness recently, the quarreling speakers needed to be reassured by assuring them that none of the methods were entirely satisfactory.
Various survey and measurement methods were required for a holistic assessment. Everyone in the group agreed that the continuous assessment, which is so important to a student’s learning process, should be included in the final settlement.
So it makes sense to have MCQs in bulk exams, but these shouldn’t be the only yardstick to measure learning. Individual differences and multiple intelligences can only be taken into account through the careful and ongoing use of a variety of tools such as oral and written tests, projects, interviews, research papers, quizzes, etc. The examinations before a committee could consistently follow the MCQ model, as is the case with the SAT examinations.
However, great importance must be attached to continuous work in the school, otherwise the students will become experts in ticking boxes with no in-depth knowledge of the subject and no ability to express themselves. By the way, admission to college in the US doesn’t just depend on SAT scores – certificates from the last four years of school, letters of recommendation from relevant teachers, essays, and self-reports are all taken into account. As I researched the merits of the CBSE formula for Grade 10 and 12 students from 2021-22, I found that as an exam-obsessed nation, we tend to become so preoccupied with the nuances of various assessment methods that we often overlook that our main concern should be the level and quality of learning.
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