This is a one-of-a-kind programme where the Prime Minister of a country connects directly with students to understand their views on the current examination system. Through this initiative, the Prime Minister has urged everyone to view exams in the right perspective, rather than making it a life-and-death situation punctuated by stress and pressure.
To support this vision of making examinations less stressful, CBSE is taking several measures to transform assessments and focus on students achieving success through learning outcomes rather than rote memorization.
Students taking the CBSE board exams can now appear in score-improvement examinations in the same year. This facility will be provided in 2021 for one subject and will be expanded to more than one in the 2022 board examinations.
Conducting an improvement exam along with the compartment exam in the same year will also help in saving the academic year of the student.
CBSE has also introduced exams in mathematics in class X at two levels — basic and standard — to cater to the requirements of learners at different aptitude levels. This will reduce the examination stress, allowing students to learn at their own pace.
The focus of teaching-learning and assessment would be shifted from content-understanding to concept-understanding and knowledge. Board examinations would be transformed, over a period of time, to incorporate competency-based assessment. The aim is to shift towards ‘criterion referenced testing’ from the present ‘norm referenced testing’.
Curriculum, pedagogical processes and assessments will also be changed to achieve the desired learning outcomes. These learning outcomes will be measurable and will bring accountability to all stakeholders in the education system. This will help our learning and assessment system to transition from content-mastery to competency-mastery.
Since 2020, board exams have included competency-based questions. Such questions will be increased by 10% annually so that these questions get a weightage of 50-60% by 2025.
This will help students gain employability skills and become more well-rounded citizens. Increased focus on competency-based learning will help students gain various 21st century skills in addition to cognitive skills, resulting in better overall performance of students.
To help make this transition towards competency-based learning, the board is currently working on delineating competencies against learning outcomes, finalizing assessment framework against these, developing subject wise test blueprints and guidelines for item development for grades X and XII.
There will be a complete shift in using assessments to judge not only the cognitive levels of the learner but also to identify the unique strengths and the potential of the child. This will supplement the transition from rote memorization to competency-based learning.
A Holistic Progress Card (HPC) is envisaged to provide students with information on their strengths, areas of interest and areas of focus, thereby helping them in making optimal career choices. Incorporating HPC will be carried out in a phased manner with learnings from each stage, feeding into further developments to mitigate initial resistance. HPC will be initially piloted for the foundational classes and implemented in higher classes thereafter. HPC will also be kept in mind while finalizing the assessment framework. Training will be conducted across the country to enable students, teachers and parents to understand the philosophy and practice of HPC.
Conducting the board examination during a pandemic is and will remain a challenge. But the board, working together with principals, teachers, parents and students will ensure observance of protocols and is committed to provide a safe and conducive environment for exams.
Through these interventions, CBSE aims to create a stress-free atmosphere for youngsters. Structured implementation of these interventions will also increase standardization, credibility and transparency of the board exams.
(The author is chairman, CBSE)