New Delhi: Appearing for class 10 and 12 board exams twice a year will not be mandatory and the concept is being introduced as an option to reduce students’ stress caused by the fear of single opportunity, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has said.
In an interview, Pradhan said the issue of ‘dummy schools’ cannot be ignored and the time has come to have a serious discussion about it.
According to the New Curriculum Framework (NCF) announced by the Ministry of Education in August, board examinations will be held at least twice a year to ensure that students have enough time and opportunity to perform well. They will also get the option to retain the best score.
Asked how the move will make board exams “low stakes” as proposed in the new National Education Policy (NEP), Pradhan said, “The students will have an option of appearing for the exams twice a year just like engineering entrance exam JEE. They can choose the best score… but it will be completely optional, no compulsion.
“The students often get stressed thinking they lost a year, their chance is gone or that they could have performed better… the stress caused by the fear of single opportunity will be reduced.” “If any student feels that he is completely prepared and is satisfied with the score in one set of exams, he can choose not to appear for the next exams. Nothing will be mandatory,” he added.
Pradhan, who is also the Skill Development minister, said he has received positive feedback from students on the plan to conduct board exams twice a year.
“I met students after the NCF was announced. They have appreciated this and are happy with the idea. We are trying that the exams are conducted twice a year from 2024 itself,” he said.
However, this is not the first attempt at reforming board exams. The Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) was introduced for class 10 in 2009 but was revoked in 2017 and the board reverted to the old model of year-end exams.
The board exams for classes 10 and 12 were also split into two terms during the COVID-19 pandemic as a one-time measure, but the old format of year-end examination resumed this year.
“In a country where Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself counsels the students on how to remain stress-free during exams in his annual ‘Pariksha Pe Charcha’, such an examination reform is necessary. He tells students not to be scared of exams but to defeat them, ‘pariksha ki pariskha lo’ (take the exam’s exam),” Pradhan said.
Asked about the record student suicides in Rajasthan’s Kota this year, the minister said, “It is a very sensitive issue. No lives should be lost… they are our children. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the students are stress-free.” Over two lakh students move to Kota annually to prepare for competitive exams such as the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) for engineering and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to medical colleges.
According to official figures, 23 students committed suicide in Kota this year — the highest ever for the country’s coaching hub. Last year, the figure was 15.
Pradhan said the time has come to have a serious discussion on the issue of ‘dummy schools’.
“The issue cannot be ignored. Although the number of such students is not very high as compared to the total number of students… the time has come to have serious discussions and deliberations on the subject,” he said.
Several NEET and JEE aspirants enrol themselves in schools in their home states and move to Kota to attend coaching classes. They do not attend fulltime schools and directly appear for the board exams.
The issue of ‘dummy schools’ has been flagged by several experts who believe not attending school hinders students’ personal growth and they often feel isolated and stressed.
Asked why the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) hasn’t met in the last three years, Pradhan said, “CABE is being reconstituted”.
“The older version of CABE was very broad… demands of today’s education system are different. At a time when we are making a paradigm shift with the new National Education Policy, CABE also needs to be remodelled.
“At the end of the day, CABE will review what is being introduced now, be it new curriculum, new credit framework, accreditation or any other reform,” he said.
The minister further said two IITs — Delhi and Madras — are in progressive stages of setting up their offshore campuses and talks are on with several other countries who have expressed interest.
“The Ministry of External Affairs is coordinating it and various kinds of options and combinations are being deliberated upon. (External Affairs) Minister (S) Jaishankar himself is looking into it. I am also with him,” Pradhan said.
He said the guidelines for foreign universities to set up their campuses in India are also under deliberation and will be notified soon.
“We are going to make a paradigm shift. So, we will go ahead after exploring all possibilities and clearing all doubts. The guidelines are under deliberation and I am confident that the UGC will notify them soon,” he said.
Asked about the decision of states like Karnataka and West Bengal to not implement the National Education Policy (NEP), Pradhan said, “Their objections are not academic but political.” “I have still not been able to understand what their actual objection is about. West Bengal has taken out an alternative document. We have seen that and it is 99 per cent similar to the NEP,” he said.