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Case Analysis: The Dual Duel

The rigidity and sometimes the redundancy of elements in the CBSE syllabus has often been the centre of debate, writes Rehmatullah Sheikh

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I write as someone who graduated from high school only five years ago and I notice that the angst I experienced has not changed for others who came after me. A lot is pinned on our relationship with the education board: early years at school, eligibility to pick a certain stream, and prospects of higher education culminating into job opportunities. Since so much of our controlled destiny is intertwined with our school, a nuanced analysis of the education board is a controversial as much as a necessary endeavour.

Starting with the end: The fault lines in the system appear early in our lives as students. During the years leading up to Grade 10 — or Board exams — we start back-projecting examinations into our everyday academic life. We fine tune our lifestyle today for answering the exams in the future. Any apparent deficiencies in our understanding of concepts are approached with a sense of urgency, not necessarily to fix them for better assimilation, but to ensure that the ‘weakness’ does not fester into a hindrance for good scores. The dual Boards of 10th and 12th determine our duel with challenges, which often coerces us to adopt popular solutions than a profound one. All this in the face of a blanket ban on extracurricular activities (even watching news!), or parents tempting their ward with material gratification for glorious scores.

Servitude to syllabus: The rigidity and sometimes the redundancy of elements in the CBSE syllabus has often been the centre of debate. The dominance of theoretical method notwithstanding, educators and students alike often hang onto the syllabus as the end in itself rather than the journey towards understanding the subject. The syllabus becomes a litmus test for a student’s ability to perform in exams, and, by societal logic, also in life. Rather than pave the path for seeking limitless knowledge, students are pressured into settling for limited information.

Personally, I developed a keen interest in History and Political Science during my undergraduate days, long after we were introduced to October Revolution and the Great Depression in Grade 10. What were important topics that changed the global landscape were casually passed on as information whose importance was subject to a recurrent exam question addressing the topic.

Solution: The best people to evaluate students are not examiners in a place unknown, but the teachers who share the familiar space. Teachers are a repository of critical information on the level of academic and personal development. It is easy for final exam scores to dupe an artist into thinking that science should dictate one’s future, or an economist to pursue a language. But nourishment of the mind comes from a qualitative assessment of oneself that is reasoned, familiar, and provides space for discourse — all possible in a teacher’s feedback. Teachers are also best positioned to help students navigate with a degree of moral consciousness, and warn them of the pitfalls of marks overshadowing qualities that make a conscientious citizen.

Examine the examination: Thousands of young Indians for weeks together hold the belief that their destiny lies in the red-ink of an anonymous examiner. CBSE board exams are rife with legends — of illegible handwriting sending marks into a nosedive; or of the examiners’ mood heavily weighing on their answer sheet. In these endless debates, we assign the examination culture far more importance than it deserves. I hear of students who only scraped through in the internal assessments but had miraculously topped the board exams; or vice versa. While every student deserves his or her share of success and happiness, the ‘results’ from these exams can develop a false sense of confidence, leading students into areas of study that would be far more difficult to sustain than what the scores indicate.

Rather than merely the brain, the mind of the learner needs to be challenged and guided by no one better than teachers who understand their students intimately.

Also Read: Weighed Down By A System | G. Gautama | Pranita Lele

The writer is a PR executive based in Dubai. An undergraduate from Pune’s Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication, he has won the gold medal for best outgoing undergraduate student from President Pranab Mukherjee

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case analysis case study education magazine 18 april 2016