Views for different boards

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It’s that time of the year! Parents and students (in that order) are reeling with the weight of the board exams that are set to commence a few weeks from now. In most cases, the preliminary exam results are out, which is reason enough to study even harder and score even better! Of course, for class 10 students, this is an exercise strictly to ensure admission to a college of their choice, whereas in the case of quite a few class 12 students, the class 12 exams are attempted just to score the minimum required marks to get into a professional course after the entrance exam results.

“Besides serving the purpose of acquiring admission to a good college, a good aggregate in class 10 is also an advantage when applying for admission to professional courses like MBA. The class 10 board marks come up for consideration during the first professional placement, either after BE/ BTech, or a five-year law degree or hotel management degree, or an MBA, CA, CWA and CS, to name just a few,” emphasises career counsellor, jayanti ghosh

Yet, it has been observed that many students are so occupied preparing for entrance exams that follow their class 10 exams, that they are unable to do justice to the class 12 board syllabus. In the case of class 10 students, the argument is that it is more the parents and teachers than the students themselves, who push students to study.

Does this inevitably mean these exams are taken for granted? “Both the class 10 and 12 exams are important, since options for better career courses are dependent on a student’s performance in these two exams. Most students are aware of this, and hence I wouldn’t say that students are casual about these exams,” declares Basanti Roy, Divisional Secretary, Maharashtra State Board of Secondary Education and Higher Secondary Education, Mumbai Division.

Seconding her statement, Gerry Arathoon, Additional Secretary and Officiating Chief Executive and Secretary, Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination, discloses, “I have found that candidates appearing for the ICSE (10) and ISC (12) examinations are committed, hardworking and serious about their performance.”

Though this might be true, can one really deny the fact that entrance exams are becoming so important today that the number of students enrolling for tuitions to prepare for these exams – like IIT-JEE, AIEEE, CET, etc has significantly risen? Confirming a rise in the need for tutoring for entrance exams, Aditya Singhal, Director, ASK IITians, agrees, “It is true that the number of students, who seek coaching for various entrance exams has increased, simply because there is too much competition and students need help from tutors to prepare for these exams.” Elaborating further, Professor R R Nadkarni, Dean Academic, Vidyalankar Group, says, “Entrance exams have become mandatory for admission to any professional college across India, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision of 2003. Admissions to institutes like IITs, NITs, BITs, and various government and private colleges attached to different universities, are based on various entrance exams. It is no wonder then that students are flocking to coaching classes.”

Experts, however, opine that these entrance exams are indeed taking away the seriousness attached to board exams. Ghose affirms, “It is true that there is a lack of appreciation of the importance of the class 12 exams vis-à-vis the CET, which has hindered quite a few good students from realising their potential in alternative programmes and careers, when their CET efforts have been unsuccessful or not as effective as expected.”

Snehalata Deshmukh, educationist and ex-Vice Chancellor, Mumbai University, further adds, “The move to introduce CET (Common Entrance Test) has been wrong on the High Court’s part. It is incorrect of ministers to come up with decisions like these that influence career moves without consulting either teachers, educationists and the general public.”

However, the decision-makers for various boards do not agree with the impact that entrance exams have had on students’ commitment to their board exams. Says Vineet Joshi, Chairman and Secretary, CBSE, “It is not true that the competitive examinations like AIPMT, AIEEE etc, have taken the focus away from the board exams. Sincere students study equally hard for both the examinations and the entrance examinations and are selected through competitive examinations as well.”

“On the contrary, the recently revised syllabus of the Council, prepares ISC (12) students for competitive examinations,” defends Arathoon. It is also believed that almost 70 per cent of the syllabus for both the class 12 board exams and the entrance exams is the same. “Absolutely true. In fact through the board syllabus, students develop a better conceptual understanding, which they can apply to the entrance exams and score much better,” Roy elaborates.

However, Ghose elucidates, “The biggest difference between the board exams and the entrance exams is that the CET pattern is objective, and requires more in-depth and detailed knowledge of each aspect of the curriculum, while the HSC requires a broader approach with a focus on a descriptive examination pattern.”

Academicians believe that each of these boards have their own shortcomings. “Though the curriculum is very good, SSC is all about cramming. Moreover, the examiners expect students to use specific language and any deviation from it is not accepted. As far as the ICSE is concerned, there has been a deluge of new ICSE schools, as a result of which teachers are not trained as per the ICSE syllabus, leaving a lot to be desired. The CBSE curriculum is good, but is very extensive. Moreover, the questions demand either short answers or are multiple choice questions, and thus the extensive syllabus serves as an impediment,” Deshmukh analyses. Add to this the fact that it is not the annual performance but a student’s performance in just one exam that seals the student’s fate.

“This is not true at all. Schools have been given the autonomy to evaluate a student’s performance through practical examinations, which are included in the board’s final result. There are school-based evaluations in many subjects in class 10 (science, math and social studies) and class 12 (accountancy and sociology),” Joshi declares.

“The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (ICSE) has introduced 20 per cent course work since 1995 in all Group I and Group II subjects at the class 12 level.
In class 12, except for languages, all subjects have a practical component of 30 per cent,” states Arathoon.

“We have introduced several student-friendly measures lately. There is 20 per cent weightage on internal assessment – orals and practicals - which are evaluated on the entire year’s performance in subjects like math and social sciences for class 10. For class 12 students, who have opted for geography, there is 20 per cent weightage for practicals. Moreover, students are well aware that a letter from the board stating that the student has scored the highest (in the case of toppers) amongst thousands, who had appeared for the same exam that year, ensures them a place in a foreign university, when their applications are being considered,” Roy informs.
Not limiting learning to class 10 or 12, Roy concludes, “Learning is a lifelong experience. You don’t stop learning, even when you are working. Thus, it becomes imperative that students learn the value of self-learning, which will take them a long way.”


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