In the season of a variety of leaks from education to elections, there may be hope yet with last Wednesday’s decision of the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations to set questions ~ with effect from the 2018-19 academic session ~ for ten “core” subjects in Class 9 and for 16 disciplines in Class Eleven, indeed during the senior school stage and between the two public examinations in Classes 10 and 12.
In parallel, the Council has acknowledged the imperative of internal assessment by schools before the students take the first public exam. The praxis signifies a blend between tradition and innovation.
Thus far, there has been no cavil by the school authorities over the seeming disconnect between questions, framed by the regulatory authority, and evaluation by the respective schools.
On the contrary, the initiative has been generally welcomed. Not the least because the new pattern of senior school evaluation will ensure an important measure of uniformity in the test-papers ~ so essential when the students are at the threshold of the under-graduate stage.
The revised pattern is also expected to discourage learning by rote by senior school students, selective study influenced by trends in previous years, and ought to benefit students in general… ahead of the board examinations.
Questions will not be dictated by the preferred choice of an individual teacher; rather “due weightage” will be given to all subjects in the bifurcated syllabus.
There is, however, no bifurcation in the syllabus for English language and English Literature ~ two very different subjects ~ and the “second language” papers. The Council offers as many as 23 second languages and has rightly avoided the absurdity of setting a multiplicity of question papers.
Overall, the new system with its focus on core subjects will hopefully ensure comprehensive learning, of a kind that is embedded in uniformity in all schools affiliated to the Council, and across the country. It is just as well, therefore, that due importance has been accorded to English ~ a compulsory “first language” subject.
Rationally enough, the Council has excluded from its question-paper formula those subjects that are relatively specialised and draw a fewer number of examinees.
These include computer applications, economic applications, environmental applications, technical drawing and modern foreign languages, notably French, Chinese, German, and Spanish.
Also to be welcomed is the examination schedule. The affiliated schools will have to conduct their internal assessments on the basis of the Council’s papers.
Hill schools will have to hold their exams in Classes 9 and 11 in November/December, and institutions in the plains in February/ March.
Accordingly, the Council will prepare two sets of question papers ~ for the Hill schools and the plains. Core learning will thus be protected.