Published originally on CRI.
It is ironic that Kapil Sibal declared at 125th Birth Anniversary celebrations of great Mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan that exam-centric education system would have to go. One wonders what Ramanujan himself would say – “Mr. Minister, even I am a product of exam centric education system”? Kapil Sibal says he would like to replace the current system with a child-centric one. Now that is a very interesting term. So how does the minister define the term?
Expressing his determination to do away with rote learning and the “archaic” examination-oriented system, he said: “We are endeavouring to reform this with emphasis on skill development and unlocking the creative talent within the child.” The Ministry’s decision to do away with examinations at the end of the year, replacing them with a Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation (CCE) system in a bid to de-stress children, was a step in that direction. [Link]
Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation has its benefits. It has to be, however, said that CCE will not de-stress the children all by itself. Students are under stress due to the range of competition. Imagine a candidate appearing for IIT JEE during +2. He faces at least 7 lakh others across the country. Imagine what goes on in the family, forget the candidate! Every IIT graduate has a story to tell as to how many sacrifices the complete family makes for success at the exam!
CCE has its benefits and can de-stress the students but in an autonomous organization with tight controls within the organization. For example, some engineering colleges at graduate level and almost all of them at post-graudate level use it to the maximum benefit of both students and professors. The system is a success at these places because of the autonomy. JNTU implemented CCE in engineering colleges affiliated to it. It had limited impact and yet, it couldnt do away with the final exam. The final exam had to cover 80% of the total score. CCE makes sense when the number of institutions involved is less. Another important factor that influences the impact of CCE is the physical proximity of affiliated institutions. Otherwise fraud and cheating would happen as the case is with JNTU’s example.
Understanding the issue
JNTU faced several issues with implementing CCE is more than 100 colleges in AP affiliated to it at the time of introduction of the system. They started with 80% external evaluation in the form of final comprehensive exam and 20% internal evaluation across the semester via 5 exams conducted by the instructor. Due to lack of feedback mechanism between students and the governing body – JNTU, the system led to several problems. There were cases of cheating and fraud. JNTU wanted to solve this problem by making internal evaluation “not so internal” through online objective evaluation. For this, an internal evaluation question bank was created through suggestions from all its professors, assistant professors, associate professors across the affiliated institutes. The online evaluation software would throw random questions on the screen to be answered in stipulated amount of time. This system again failed at several institutions due to infrastructure issues but the major problem was again cheating and fraud. The issue is quite clear – large educational bodies with centralized governing body cannot use CCE effectively. Effective use of CCE can happen with decentralized model. JNTU understood this and divided colleges between JNTU Hyderabad, JNTU Kakinada and JNTU Ananthapur. The division was purely based on physical proximity of the institute to the governing body. This system still faces the issues that it had initially. It will continue to face them.
Take another example. IITs. For evaluating graduate students, IITs dont have a common examination across all the IITs! Even BITS Pilani which has its campuses in Pilani, Dubai, Goa and Hyderabad doesnt use CCE across all four via a common evaluation body. Closed loop within each campus is used. In fact in all these institutes, swift justice in case of any fraud/cheating via committees within the institutes ensures better evaluation, without hindering the process of education. The key phrase – “checks and balances”. One then wonders why such a tight loop cannot be framed within the schools or a set of schools within close physical proximity!
What is happening now?
In our current system of school education, we have CBSE at national level and as competing bodies we have State Education Boards. Schools are allowed to choose one of the bodies. The chosen body not just dictates syllabi but also evaluates students in a final examination with a common exam held on a common date at all affiliated schools. So by design CCE is missing. Private schools, so far bridged this gap by having internal evaluation which does not affect scoring at final exam but will only help students to be ready for the final evaluation. Government schools on the other hand, have been busy serving meals at noon to children rather than conducting classes regularly. All government education bodies across India have a common goal – syllabus. Core of the problem lies in this – skill development has never been the area of interest of these bodies.
Skill development was and still is the school’s responsibility to compete with other schools. Students who make it top notch institutes across India via JEE, AIEEE, BITSAT etc., generally have a set of skills in some area or the other. But it has to be understood that they do not make it there due to those skills. They acquire those skills at school, due to their own enthusiasm and sometimes due to the school’s stress on extra-curricular and co-curricular activities. Fortunately or unfortunately, skill development is not due to the governing body. Some exceptions do exist in places like Kerala though! In terms of the system of education, both geography and demography have a huge role to play.
Before CCE Implementation….
Sibal’s megalomania and grandiose plans lack substance just because of one of his very fundamental assertion – centralization. For a country of the size of India, with such a large population, centralization of education is a disaster to start with. Decentralizing and allowing that little freedom to schools would be a very important step. Such a decentralization process must be addressed before CCE can be implemented. If we are supposed to get anything useful from implementation of CCE, Governments at class X, +1, +2 level in Government Schools needs to
Allow more freedom to schools to collaborate and spool resources – they are already in severe resource crunch.
Leaving out examinations completely would be a recipe for disaster. As it is, drop out rates in Class X, +1, +2 across states like AP is too high. Any hasty introduction of CCE without first correcting some fundamental flaws in organizing schools would only bring about faster drop out rates at these levels. CCE is already available in an abstract way in private schools. Several aided and government schools tried to emulate it to see marginal success. But the issue remains. CCE itself will not reduce stress on students.
In conclusion, CCE would make sense only with a proper mechanism to address drop-out rates at class X, +1, +2 levels across government schools in India. Acts proposed by Sibal like RTE only make it worse as they attack Private schools which have a decent CCE model already in place.
Bottom line – leave private institutions alone. If possible allow them a % share of total evaluation points/score. Don’t scrap examinations, even if you introduce grading. Meanwhile, ensure Government and Aided schools improve standards w.r.t infrastructure and faculty. Form conglomerates of schools within a certain radius and allow them to frame, organize and evaluate their students through proper resource spooling. Give out performance ratings based on consistency of each conglomerate and each school so that students can choose a proper school. Until that happens, don’t implement CCE. Even if you implement CCE, don’t do it across country/state. Implement CCE at conglomerate level. That will reduce stress on students, not fairy tales.