CBSE cancellation of Class 12 Board Exams: Implications on evaluation and admissions to higher studies

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A combination of the marks obtained in the board examination of class X and internal examination of class XI or/and those obtained in the preliminary exam of class XII could also be used as the criteria to determine the standing of the student in class XII.

CBSE cancellation of Class 12 Board Exams: Implications on evaluation and admissions to higher studies
The euphoria around the cancellation by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) of the Class XII Board Examination was unbelievable. The government should be complimented for taking this decision. There was also a sense of relief as the decision had been hanging fire for quite some time and the students were on their tenterhooks, adding to the tension and psychological pressure on account of COVID 19.
Such decisions, like the one above, are difficult ones. They can’t be perfect. In the education sector or for that matter in any sector, there aren’t many decisions with which everyone is happy. One such rare personal experience narrated in my book, “Ethical Dilemmas of a Civil Servant” was regarding spiking of marks by various Boards, including CBSE, beyond the marks obtained by the students in their Board Examinations. Can you imagine a student getting cent percent marks in literature? However, that is how it is.
I termed it as ‘farcical delusion’ in the book as everyone (including teachers, students, schools, parents, boards and state governments) was happy with such a delusion. Such marks obtained in class XII become the benchmark for admissions to higher classes. How would those be determined now? The CBSE has announced that they are working on a criterion and it will be announced soon. This article attempts to look at this and some other related issues:
1. What were the options available with the CBSE before it announced the cancellation of the board examination?
2. What are the implications of the cancellation?
3. What are the likely options for determining the grade of the child now?
4. The way forward for admissions to higher studies.
The CBSE must have weighed various options regarding the possibility of conducting class XII exams (class X exams were cancelled much earlier) before finally taking an unprecedented step of cancelling them. What would have finally clinched the issue would have been the risk of exposure to the children on account of the rampaging COVID-19 during the second wave. I had suggested an option of inoculating all the children in class XII and going ahead with the exams after a couple of months. This was a possible option but fraught with risks.
The CBSE had already announced the curtailment of the syllabus. The idea was perhaps to hold an examination of shorter duration. It was making an all-out effort to see that the examinations were somehow held in the interest of the children. However, this was not to be. The decision took much longer than expected because it was an unprecedented one and, hence, consultations were held at the highest level before it was announced.
The importance and value of the board examinations is not merely in terms of the benchmark it provides for higher studies, it also provides an evaluation for the student. It enables the child to assess herself and decide her own future in terms of the path to be adopted. It is a critical juncture in her life. Despite the delusionary practice of inflating the marks, the student does get some idea about her comparative strength and weaknesses. That would not be available now through the board examination.
As mentioned earlier, the respective Boards, including the CBSE, cannot promote everyone without making some assessment. Each of them would now have to work on a criterion to determine where the student stands. They can use other parameters to determine this. This could include the marks obtained in the internal examination. Most of the schools, at least the CBSE ones, do have an internal examination before the final examinations.
The classes of many schools for class XII had commenced as the COVID-19 wave had receded after the first spike. Though the internal assessment cannot be a substitute for the assessment done through the board examination, it is a viable alternative for want of any other better option. Moreover, as the schools and students were not aware at the time of internal assessment that the marks obtained in such an assessment would be the basis of the final assessment, there would have been no motivation to influence the process.
A combination of the marks obtained in the board examination of class X and internal examination of class XI or/and those obtained in the preliminary exam of class XII could also be used as the criteria to determine the standing of the student in class XII. Yet again, this may not be the perfect alternative to board examination but could be considered in absence of actual examination.
The alternatives mentioned above can at best be used for determining whether the student is good enough to pass and for some broad grades but cannot become the basis for entry into higher education. There will have to be a separate entrance test for admissions to such colleges/institutions that were so far dependent upon the marks obtained in Board Examination. This would also be in tune with the National Education Policy (NEP) announced last year.
The NEP clearly recommends that “the National Testing Agency (NTA) will work to offer high-quality common aptitude test, as well as specialised common subject exams in the science, humanities, languages, arts, and vocational subjects……..each university will be able to see each student’s individual subject portfolio and admit students into their programmes based on individual’s interests and talents. The NTA will serve as a premier expert, an autonomous testing organisation to conduct entrance examinations for undergraduate and graduate admissions and fellowships in higher educational institutions”. Thus, it is clear that under NEP, the board examinations and the marks obtained therein will have no bearing on admissions to institutions for higher education.
In this sense, the cancellation of the Board examination could usher in a new era and dispense with unnecessary importance attached to marks obtained in Board examinations. It will hopefully take care of the ‘farcical delusion” as well.
Anil Swarup is former Secretary, Government of India and author of the book 'Not Just A Civil Servant'. The views expressed are personal

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