Does exam-free really mean stress-free?
Some very pertinent points have been made in the recently concluded meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE). The no-exam approach introduced by the MHRD (read Kapil Sibal) is not functioning in most of the schools and its negative impacts are now visible. So we have one more committee of experts to give a report. The Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) and no-exam protocols were hurriedly announced without extensive inputs from academics, teacher bodies and scholars. When the implementation of CCE was bulldogged by Sibal, those who were supposed to provide pragmatic inputs remained silent. No examination and no detention were surprisingly welcomed by certain sections. The teachers’ associations, supposed to express themselves on issues concerned with quality, didn’t scrutinise pros and cons of the decision.
The irony is that the CCE is universally acknowledged as an academically and pedagogically sound approach. It, however, requires certain basic essentials in the absence of which it turns into a disaster. Teachers need to be trained in its procedures. More than that, they need to be convinced about its utility. Both these factors are absent in majority of the Indian schools. The main role of the CBSE, hand-maiden of the MHRD, is to say, “Yes, minister’. If it was really autonomous, it could have impressed upon the ministry on the inputs needed. Instead, it conducted one-day orientation programmes for the school heads, and that was all to implement CCE. With over 10 lakh teacher vacancies, over 6-7 lakh untrained para-teachers and huge concentration of teachers around state capitals and big towns—with an average of 25 per cent teacher-absenteeism—the plight of government schools in rural, far-flung, hill and tribal areas can only be imagined. The school head, mostly a reluctant person functioning under stop-gap arrangement, remains busy in combining classes or sections or in answering queries from practically all around. The government schools function in a state of perpetual deficiency and deprivation. It is mostly impossible to find an environment that projects motivation and confidence among staff members and students. Public schools could implement CCE as they have adequate infrastructure facilities, and the right teacher-taught ratio. They could also ensure that teachers adhere to the protocol approved by the school. The work culture in these schools is definitely superior to that of government schools. It is, however, necessary to conduct surveys and researches, particularly in these schools, as to how far children really feel stress-free after the introduction of CCE. There are reports that both the children and parents are fed up — almost every day there is some test in one or the other subject and obviously, necessary preparation has to be made. The first casualty is the play time with friends. It creates a huge vacuum in the personality development of the child.
Which group of children suffers when teaching is exam-free? It is the weaker sections of society who cannot afford public schools, have to depend on government schools, without any coaching schools for their children. Children from minory groups (read Muslims), for whom so much concern is expressed by the competing governments to announce more and more incentives, suffer the same fate as other weaker sections. It is once again time to demand functional schools with necessary infrastructure facilities and professionally competent regular teachers. If the system functions properly with adequate number of trained teachers, the CCE could be attempted, taking special precautions that children have at least four CCE-free days.
Children would just be too happy if Sibal gives credence to the views expressed in the CABE meeting.
The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own