The connoisseurs are discouraged and regret this digital distance learning. It’s not ideal, of course, but given the circumstances, online education seems the most appropriate substitute.
New Delhi | Tarun Gupta: In the past year and a half, hardly any other area of life has been as badly affected as education. The Covid pandemic disrupted school and university life so badly that they are almost no longer recognizable from their previous form. The severity and unpredictability of the virus has resulted in further shutdowns and cancellations of conventional investigations.
The connoisseurs are discouraged and regret this digital distance learning. It’s not ideal, of course, but given the circumstances, online education seems the most appropriate substitute. The development of online teaching and evaluation techniques is still in progress. Confabulations have been made at various levels of our educational ecosystem to develop a robust mechanism. The suggested answers allay some concerns but also raise few questions, and worse, it seems that chronic problems are not addressed.
The most important test for an Indian student was grade 12. Without getting into the merits of undue emphasis on this school pass exam, it is the generally accepted basis for admission to university courses. As a result of Covid, the 12th board examinations for 2021 were dispensed with and significantly optimized for 2022. The grading scheme has been changed to take into account internal assessments and past exams, but the importance of the 12th result in opening up the study to graduates remains undiluted.
This leads us to the real issue of admission to graduate courses in India. It’s a pretty basic case of supply-demand mismatch. The pressure on selected colleges and universities that simply do not have enough seats to cope with the flood of applications is disproportionate. The result is an increase in cut-offs. Every year there are reports of coveted colleges closing their admissions lists at a ridiculous 98% or more. For example, to study English at a leading university college in Delhi, a 12th grade student may need to get 99 percent not only in his final exam in English but also in math, physics, etc., if those are his subjects to cut the line. Forced by the system, the privileged lot travels overseas to graduate. The curse of the brain drain begins towards the end of school.
What we need are more high-quality universities, where even mediocre students with average pass scores have the opportunity to study. The current scenario, where our higher education admits one and rejects a hundred, cannot satisfy the desires of our students. We need more colleges and we need them in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities to ease the current status of brain drain across the country on select subways. Here, too, digital distance learning can help. Despite the problems of connectivity and effectiveness, online education has the potential to make a difference.
The Indian school system works with multiple boards. Each state has individual state boards and a central board of CBSE. Students who leave different boards, who have been tested for different curriculum and exam metrics, and scored with different grading standards, compete for places on the same courses. Some government bodies use far stricter assessment criteria, where even top students struggle to secure a 90 percent say over CBSE, where it is no longer surprising that toppers get a perfect 100 percent score. A percentile system on the individual boards will create a level playing field. It indicates the percentage of students who have done worse so you can understand the relative status of each student. Under this system, 80 percent could be rated in a strict state body, more than 90 percent in the more liberal CBSE. It is widely used in most developed countries and takes into account variations due to curriculum, level of difficulty, assessment criteria, etc. Unfortunately, the much-needed standardization or approximation in India has yet to be tried.
In the absence of conventional collegiate exams due to the pandemic, CBSE has formulated new ideas for assessing students. The proposed internal assessment and the previous examination performance as a basis for the decision on the 12th Board result do not appear fair and equitable. Students often work harder and do better on their twelfth boards than on any previous test. Individual school bias is likely to permeate and tarnish internal assessments.
CBSE offers to change the format of the questionnaires and to water down the curriculum. Exams are designed to test a student’s knowledge and understanding and to assess their expression. The proposed new scheme with an abundance of multiple choice questions will certainly not test articulation skills. An agonizing reality is that most prestigious overseas universities do not value CBSE highly. The loosening of the curriculum will further undermine its reputation.
We may admit 2021 was a mistake, but shouldn’t our system be better equipped to hold the 12th Chamber Exams in 2022? Even if physical exams are derailed by the pandemic, the ability to have an online assessment might be better than the proposed arrangement. About 12 Lac students write the CBSE 12th board each year and even assuming that 50 percent of them need hardware support for online education and assessment, the outflow will be around 500-600 crores at Rs 10,000 per student . That will be money well spent by the state. The questionnaires need to be designed creatively as they are similar to an open book audit. In order to curb unfair practices, plagiarism software and other monitoring tools are once again routinely used in foreign audits.
The main idea behind radical proposals was to ensure a stress-free environment for the students. Remember that the greatest source of fear is insecurity. These clouds have not yet dispersed as their ambiguity lingers through every nuance of the academic year. If we don’t act quickly and effectively, learning outcomes are sure to be compromised. In our zeal for simplification, do we miss the forest for the trees?
(The article is an opinion piece by Tarun Gupta. The views expressed in the article are from the author, and Jagran English assumes no responsibility for the views expressed here.)
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