June 30, 2009

Simplifying & De-stressing Secondary Education

An open letter to ...

Mr Kapil Sibal,
Minister for Human Resources Development
Government of India

Dear Sir, Mr Sibal

Your thoughts on the abolition of Class X examinations and the introduction of a single nationwide Class XII examination are like the winds of change that should blow away the cobwebs from the stultifying and claustrophobic classrooms to which we in India have condemned our children. You would of course know that in the United States, a similar system is in place with students – if they wish to join college – having to take only the SAT examination.

Our Class X examinations serve no purpose but to allow students to enter Class XI. Our Class XII examinations are no better – they merely serve as entry portals to colleges and in the case of engineering colleges, even this nominal and residual value is ignored because every college has its own entrance examination – nobody trusts the Class XII results. So no tears should be shed if these two examinations are consigned to the dustbins of history !

But there are powerful vested interests at work who would like to see these examinations retained. The various boards – ICSE, State Boards of Secondary and Higher Education – that owe their existence, salaries, perquisites, power and position to the existence of these examinations will fight tooth and nail to retain them and since education is a state subject it will not take too much of an effort for the states – particularly the communist ruled states – to block this initiative politically.

So is there a way to go ahead with these excellent proposals in the face of political opposition from the states ? Yes, if -- in my humble opinion – we consider the following steps :

  • We note that the the CBSE and the centrally funded institutions of higher learning ( IITs, NITs etc ) fall under the jurisdiction of the central government and any changes to their operations need not have the explicit concurrence of any other entity or political constituency.
  • The Class X CBSE examination can be abolished and the Class XII CBSE examination should be thrown open to all students – irrespective of the affiliation of their school. So students in non CBSE schools can continue to write their own examination but in addition can be optionally asked to write the CBSE XII. But why would they ?
  • The motivation to write the optional CBSE XII examination would be that its scores will be used for admission to the the centrally funded institutions of higher learning because the IITJEE and the AIEEE would be abolished ! So in one shot the CBSE XII examination becomes the de-facto single Class XII examination in the country .. and this can be achieved irrespective of whether the state governments agree to this or not.
  • If all centrally funded institutions ( including non engineering colleges like JNU, Vishwabharati etc ) converge to this single examination then the logistics could prove challenging – the number of students may reach a crore ! So instead of having the examination just once a year, it may be offered once every two months and a student should be allowed to sit for it as many times as he or she wants – provided that the last attempt should be within 12 months before entry to college. Thus the validity of the score would be 12 months. By spreading the examination over a year and allowing multiple attempts, the stress level associated with the examination will go down significantly. Children will be happy !
  • Since we have multiple instances of the CBSE XII examination and population that is taking the examination is different, marks and ranks are irrelevant. Instead percentile scores – based on the marks scored by all students who have taken the examination over the past two or three years – should be calculated and all admission decisions should be based on these percentiles. But given the diversity of institutions that will be using the score there should be separate percentiles for Physics-Chemistry-Maths, History-Geography-Civics, English and local language.

State boards can continue with their traditional Class X and Class XII examination which will act as feeders to local colleges but over a period of time the state examinations will become irrelevant – students will gradually lose interest because their result will be of interest to a very limited number of local colleges. The popularity of optional CBSE XII will be high because (a) that is the only route to join the popular central institutions and (b) there will be no schedule conflicts and students can take the examination at their convenience.

If the CBSE XII examination can be conducted with adequate care and diligence, new private colleges and universities – that should get created under the Governments higher education policy – and even local colleges in most progressive states will inevitably gravitate towards the same.

Hence we would have achieved our aim of abolishing Class X examinations and having a single Class XII examination without too much struggle and effort on the political front.

Mr Sibal, Sir I hope you would find merit in my proposal and discuss the same with your team.

Warm Regards

1 comment:

Harsh said...

Sir, complete respect to your practical sense of view, but i wish you have a look at this - http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution.html - its a TED talk on education revolotion world-over by Sir Ken Robinson.
Thank you