CBSE Boards in two parts to address online learning gaps – Times of India

In a first-of-its-kind move, the CBSE has bifurcated the assessment criteria of class X, XII boards and divided them into two parts in the current academic session. Academics claim the pandemic and extended school closures exacerbated the deep-rooted educational inequalities like student’s differential access to technology and ability to learn in remote environments. It may have prompted the CBSE to reinvent its examination scheme. The step is also being viewed as a formal initiation into NEP-2020, wherein the board exams have been redesigned to analyse the holistic development of students and test their ‘core competencies.

The Policy mandates that Term 1 will comprise MCQ type objective questions (of 90 marks) while Term II will have only subjective type questions (of 120 marks). There will be no overlapping of syllabus and the final marks will be based on students’ performance in both these exams, for which equal weightage will be given to both except in case of school closures for which weightage will be reduced.

Distribution of syllabus in two parts


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“The assessment policy was prepared keeping in mind the ongoing pandemic for which the Board would not have to ask the schools to prepare the various documents, details and data in firefighting mode. It was decided to conduct the exam in two parts, so that at least one examination data would be with the CBSE, basis which the results can be declared in unforeseen situations. Since many students are not able to focus on their studies during the pandemic, the two-part exams will also get them to be more serious about their academics. Having said that, online classes is perhaps not the perfect mode of knowledge assimilation, and to overburden the students with the entire syllabus, would mean subjecting them to undue stress,” says Sanyam Bharadwaj, controller of Examinations, while talking to
Education Times.

To relieve their academic burden, the Board has decided to rationalise the syllabus and divide it into two parts, following which topics will not be repeated in both the exams, but maintain continuity and a logical progression.

On the objective and subjective question patterns of the two exams that will test the critical thinking of the students, Bharadwaj points out that efforts are on to give the same weightage to both, either by way of marks or the number of questions. “All kinds of permutations and combinations are being worked out, for which the weightage will also depend on the prevailing pandemic situation as the exam approaches to avoid adhoc arrangements like in the Boards 2020-2021 session,” Bharadwaj says.

Since the question papers for both Term 1 and Term II exams will be provided by the Board, the sample question papers will be uploaded by the Academic department of the CBSE after mid-July any day on its website, to help teachers guide the students with the question patterns.

Flexible measures

On why the Board has decided to grant flexibility to schools for the Term 1 exam scheduled to be held in November-December with a window period of 4-8 weeks, Bharadwaj reasons that the decision has been taken keeping in view that it is mid-term exam and schools may not be able to complete the syllabus by then; besides, states may not permit early reopening of schools. By the time the Term II exams are conducted in March-April, it is presumed that the country will be relatively safe as the government is making efforts to complete the vaccination process by December, he says.

Net connectivity needed

The students’ responses for both the exams will be captured on OMR sheets, which after scanning will be directly uploaded on the CBSE portal or uploaded by the school on the very same day. “This requires internet connectivity for which the schools are well equipped as they are already uploading students’ registration details and the internal assessment marks for the Boards,” Bhardwaj explains.

Online not an option

As to whether online exams will be a feasible option in this pandemic-hit session along the lines of JEE, Bharadwaj elaborates the system can work for only a few schools and students, and not when there are around 24-25 lakh students appearing for class X Boards and nearly 14-15 lakh students for class XII Boards. “There is no system by which we can conduct the exams online and that too in one day. Even the subjects are so much more varying between 5-7, which will rule out that possibility for all candidates across the board.”

Will reduce academic load

Talking about the Board’s new assessment plan, Shubhangi More, principal, KLE School, Dharwad, says, “Learning will be more effective if we break the Board examination into shorter chunks and assess accordingly. Apart from mitigating student’s anxiety and stress, altering the syllabus and assessments will help in desirable learning outcomes with better knowledge assimilation and learning.”

Alka Kapur, principal, Modern Public School, Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi, agrees. “The syllabus for the academic session will be divided into two terms by following a systematic approach with approximately 50% in each term. This division will help in better conceptual learning and benefit the students in their competitive exams as well. It will address the needs of those students who do not have the proper resources to learn effectively on the virtual platform, while taking the pressure off students to learn an entire book at the year’s end.”

Competency-based exam

Commenting on Term II, and the Board’s decision to have subjective question paper in different formats, More believes the question paper may include questions of different formats to test critical thinking skills, Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS), application-based knowledge. Such questions will aid in analysing student’s competencies rather than assessing facts.”

On the whole, Covid-19, she says, has helped us to understand individual student’s need rather than aggregate need. “It gave us the opportunity to look at diversity, equity and inclusion in our assessment activities. I hope that remains as a trend and stays as a part of our assessment culture,” More adds.

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