PU II evaluation a challenge; And an opportunity for change

With the second-year Pre University (PU-II) board examinations cancelled, many have heaved a sigh of relief across the state.

Published: 06th June 2021 03:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th June 2021 01:58 PM   |  A+A-

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For representational purposes (Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

BENGALURU: With the second-year Pre University (PU-II) board examinations cancelled, many have heaved a sigh of relief across the state. But the education system faces a bigger challenge: How to better evaluate the PU II students who are now being “promoted” to pursue degree courses so that their performance at the next level is not affected?

No unit tests held across all colleges, no system of continuous evaluation of students, and no offline classes even as at least 20 per cent of students were unable to attend in the online mode - this is what PU II classes were like this past academic year. And, even as the Education Department finally decided to cancel the board exams, it is left with hardly any credible markers to judiciously grade the students.

The cancellation of the exams has left evaluators with a truncated retro-grading evaluation system - the students’ Class 10 and PU I marks. Experts say this is not the right way to evaluate the students.
“Internal assessment (based on unit tests) held at district level cannot be considered (for evaluation), because, while some of the students wrote a mid-term and first and second unit tests, there are those who haven’t, especially among rural students,” says PU Education Department Director R Snehal, indicating that taking these for evaluation will not do justice to those students who could not write the tests.

Experts too say SSLC board exams taken by students two years ago and the PU I exams taken last year can hardly be credible indicators for healthy evaluation to grade PU-II students now. Prof Ananth Prabhu, Sahyadri College of Engineering and Management, Mangaluru, says, “There are many who fare very well in Class 10 and perform poorly in PUC, and vice-versa. So, this truncated evaluation system will be injustice to many students.”

Prof Prabhu suggests holding the exams in a restricted manner. “A truncated evaluation system (as is being considered now) should be for 50 per cent of the marks, but for the remaining 50 per cent, an objective-type four-hour consolidated exam should be held, covering all the subjects. This can be held in different slots for different batches of students, spread over five days. This way, all the students can write the exams, get marks and also their hard work will not get wasted. And they would have to appear for exams only on one day, instead of six,” he explains. 

Call for continuous evaluation, life skills development
Experts want life skills and continuous evaluation henceforth, alongside academic performance in PU-II to evaluate students in a more credible manner. While the CBSE has Comprehensive Continuous Evaluation (CCE), the current PU format lacks a mechanism to develop or assess life skills among its six lakh students, which could be a factor in identifying whether a student is prepared for the next level of education.

“The regular method of evaluation needs a revamp and the present situation only emphasizes this. Otherwise, we will further disadvantage the already disadvantaged,” says Subhankar Chakraborty, General Secretary, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samithi (BGVS), a people’s science movement largely composed of teachers and scientists.

He says the government should put in place a holistic assessment taking into account the lived experiences of students by assessing fundamental skills learnt like computation, observation, reasoning and language acquisition, which is a reflection of their learning without invalidating their experiences. “The present assessment of considering either SSLC or PU I marks seems a farce, a quick-fix, a bureaucratic process to fill the spreadsheet, which completely neglects the difficulties that children have gone through.”

Prof Yagnamurthy Sreekanth, Professor in Education (Assessment Studies) and Principal, Regional Institute of Education, Mysuru, says the situation calls for a change in the way we approach such examinations and evaluations. “First and foremost, we should realize that board exams are exit exams to certify a student’s ability, and not a yardstick to decide the entry of students into degree courses. Instead of approaching exit exams as competitive ones, wherein the abilities of the children to memorize is tested, the time is ripe to transform and base the education on continuous evaluation wherein values like ability to collaborate, cooperate and integrity are gauged alongside the subjects,” he noted.

He says entrance exams for professional courses should change from measuring the abilities of students to crack the pattern to one that evaluates conceptual knowledge. “Right now, entrance exams mostly see students preparing based on previous years’ question papers. This needs to change at least now, and we should have a two-pronged examination system with a preliminary one to filter students, and the mains, in which out-of-the-box questions and real-life scenarios are tested,” he says. 

Science students better off
PU-II science students aspiring for professional courses will have competitive entrance tests like JEE, NEET and CET to decide their fate, not so much the PU II board exams. Dr P Pramila, Academic Head, Narayana Group, says JEE Advanced and Mains no longer need second PU II marks, while for other students, institutes waited in 2019-2020 until September, and then began admissions. 

Ramesh H N, Principal, University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering (UVCE), said the only bottleneck was the entry to engineering colleges, for which marks obtained in the CET carries 50 per cent weightage and an equal weightage for PU II marks. “It is fair to give 100 per cent weightage to CET marks at this point,” he says. 

Foreign varsities working out modalities for PU II students
Sumit Rai, founder of EUGateway, that helps students prepare to study abroad, said South Asian, South-East Asian and East Asian countries are feeders for academic institutes in Canada, Australia, the UK and the USA. Hence, colleges abroad will have to work out a formula taking into account the government’s marking scheme. At present, European countries are already bringing out relaxation in marks. Institutes abroad are working out on how to bring Indian students back on campus as the ecosystem around foreign universities thrives on students from abroad.

Financing paramedical students a problem?
The impact on those aspiring for paramedical courses is to be observed, says Prestige Medical Health Sciences (Noorie Educational Cultural Trust) CEO Dr MD Ahetasham, Consultant Radiologist at Narayana Hrudayalaya. “Several of them are from lower economic backgrounds and depend on scholarships and bank loans. The question is whether banks are notified about these changes to finance these students. “The government should look at a financial package and loan scheme for them.”

No impact of retro-grading In skilled streams
Sandra Sequeira, Director (South), JD Institute Of Fashion Technology, is confident that the retrospective grading will have no effect on skilled courses like fashion, interior and jewellery design, where students register as early as February, and wait for PU-II results (in a perfunctory manner) before they get started with their design classes. When it comes to the industry too, they’re moving and hiring, she says.

Professor Prakash Sonwalkar, Dept of Computer Science Engineering, Jain College of Engineering, Belagavi, says, “Students must have to appear for the CET and NEET examinations to get enrolled for professional courses. The  online class system must be improved. Group online classes should be held in rural area where digital connectivity is hard to access, he said. 

(With inputs from Vincent D’Souza, Marx Tejaswi, Ajith M S, Pramodkumar Vaidya, Ramkrishna Badseshi and Sunil Patil)

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