The announcement made by India’s education minister Kapil Sibal to do away with the board exam at the 10th class and to have one single school examination board has generated a huge debate in the country.
The abolition of 10th grade exam is mooted to reduce the stress of the students who have to undergo another exam at class 12. The move is made perhaps in the direction of doing away with the concept of examination system and replacing it with some other form of assessment. This raises the question, whether we need exams to asses and evaluate a student or this could be done by certain other method doing away the examination system.
This is a huge subject of debate and there is unlikely of a consensus evolving on either point of reference. I am sure argument would be put up that examination system is like “dictatorship,” while the alternative method is democracy. It will spark of another debate that what would be the alternative method and how much that sound would be as a methodology of assessment. This argument will lead to the enumeration of the virtues of the former and the latter, and this debate will go on till the cows come home! However, one thing comes out clear from the education mister’s statement that he wants to retain the 12th class board exam and only want to tamper with the 10th class exam.
Let’s see how correct he is? Students a generation before me had to appear for board exam at 11 th class, thus finishing the school education in India. The school education was broken into 3 categories; primary, secondary, and high school. The primary education was from class 1- 5, secondary from 6-8, and high school from 9-11. Students at the high school level chose the stream of course they may like to opt for at the college level, which was 3 years and that made them a graduate. In this system, a minimum of 15 years was needed to become a graduate. Sometime in the 1970s, this system was replaced by 10+ 2 pattern. In this, one more year was added to the school education with two board exams; one at 10th and other at 12th class. The students were to choose the stream of course after the 10th board exam and pursue it for two years in the school till they gave the 12th exam. They continued the stream they chose when they attend college for 3 yrs. In this system a minimum of 16 yrs is spent for being a graduate.
Now in a country like India, where average age of starting primary education is about 5, a student has to wait till 20 years or so to be a graduate. Is this not something much more taxing, then to the exams at 10th grade level? In my opinion the honorable minister instead of experimenting with abolishing the 10th standard exam should have gone for a re-look at the 10 + 2 pattern and have found out what tangible benefits it has brought to the students from the previous 11th standard high school exam system. If the 10+ 2 system has not brought any qualitative changes, then he should have considered reintroducing one board exam at the 11th class.
This could be much more meaningful exercise as it would reduce the number of years taken by a student to become a graduate in this country. What’s apparent in experimenting with doing away with 10th grade exam system is that the minister is more interested in making cosmetic changes, just for the sake of change rather than having a serious thought on improving the education system in our country.
My last point is how far the minister’s plans to have uniform board for the entire country would work where education is a state subject. As we know the diversity and the heterogeneity of the country will the provincial satraps may like to be steamrolled by such federal planning. The move also impinges on the fundamental rights of the citizens of this country. The education minister who comes from the legal fraternity should have first tried to sort of the legal wrangling that could spark public interest litigation petitions, before throwing his idea into the public debate.
Well, when a new government comes and there is pressure to perform, then such half baked ideas are floated to keep the media and the public busy talking about merits and demerits of the initiatives made. In this case it would be better if Indian education system is shorn of any cosmetic changes.
—- Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org