When it comes to pressure in performing well, the debate can swing from one extreme to the other. The arguments and counter-arguments continue back and forth concerning academics, sports, and indeed all worthwhile activities in life. Is pressure at all good, how much pressure is too much, what should be the proper age to learn to soak up pressure — are some of the fundamental questions around which such debates rage on. There will be more of the same for educators and parents whose children in CBSE schools will be completing their class X education in 2018. That will be the year when these students will again be sitting for a mandatory board fil exam, a practice scrapped six years back. In these six years, class X students had to appear for round-the-year tests and grading under the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE). When the Human Resources Development ministry introduced the CCE system back in 2010 in place of the class X board fils, it was hailed as a means to reduce pressure on students. So what went wrong with that move? Recently, HRD minister Prakash Javadekar while interacting with mediapersons, spoke wistfully of how class X students of other Central and State school boards are preparing full tilt for their fil exams, while ‘it remains an option for the CBSE’. In the same breath, he announced that the Central government has filly decided to reintroduce compulsory Class 10 board exams from academic session 2017-18. Javadekar had made public his intentions last month itself after a discussion with the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), with representations from State education ministers and independent experts. And the picture that emerged was of a significant drop in academic standards. Many educators complained that the CCE system is working out badly both for students and teachers. Due to ‘much easier evaluation in class X’, a large number of students were said to be failing to clear class XI. Among those who did, many were found to be ‘uble to take the pressure of appearing directly for Class XII boards’, which handicapped them in competing for college seats and going for the career of their choice.
The huge academic gap to be bridged between classes X and XI comes as no surprise, considering the fact that students have to opt for Arts, Science or Commerce streams after class X. Sadly, no school board in the country has succeeded so far in devising a general curriculum leading up to class X that makes possible a seamless transition to classes XI and XII. Any concerned parent knows how much load students have to bear nowadays in the crucial two years after class X, with the syllabi incorporating ever newer material. Though the learning in class X has failed to provide a solid base for the ‘Plus Two’ stage, it seems the compulsory class X board fils served as an ordeal by fire for students to toughen them for what lay ahead. Experts at the CABE meet in October last also pointed out that students of class X ‘lack sufficient motivation’ to work hard and compete with each other because of the CCE system. With the reinstatement of CBSE class X fil boards examition, the Congress has already made known its displeasure at this overturning of the previous UPA government’s move. The then HRD minister and party spokesman Kapil Sibal has argued that the government should keep out of deciding ‘whether the child should take the exam or not’. But the majority opinion of both parents and educators is saying that freedom of choice in this matter is a luxury that cannot be afforded any longer. They admit it is true that obsessing over class X boards as a precursor to the far tougher class XII boards, puts a crushing mental burden on students from class VIII-XI onwards. With high school as a whole becoming exam-centred, the joy of learning, encouraging creativity and developing all-round persolity will all remain mere ideals stamped out by the unending pressure. This, then, is the country’s tragedy — it remains saddled with an education which keeps students serious only if there is a make-or-break examition looming up ahead of them. Unless stakeholders get to the bottom of such a mindset, genuine reform in school education and evaluation will always remain beyond us.