Accolades to the Central Board of Secondary Education for a candid indication that the cancelling board examinations are not the way forward to handle COVID disruptions. The remodelled assessment framework brought out recently dwells upon the premise that the learning level assessments at classes 10 and 12 are of great relevance and should not be got rid of. It is encouraging for the academic community to witness the regulator evolving strategies to negotiate the situation faced by the country in the event of the third wave of pandemic dislodging the ongoing academic session in future. Silver lining in this pronouncement of the modified assessment strategy by the board is its timing. Unlike previous academic sessions when the fear psychosis of pandemic panicked the students in class 10 and 12, the board has informed its action plan well in advance to all stakeholders, which will help them study and get assessed accordingly.
The central board has highlighted its continued focus on assessing stipulated learning outcomes by making the examinations competencies and core concepts based, student-centric, transparent, technology-driven, and having advanced provision of alternatives for different future scenarios. On the face of the board’s action plan, it appears somewhat similar to the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) enforced in the country in 2009 as part of the Right to Education. There is no point in pondering upon the reasons for the discontinuance of CCE in 2017 for class 10 board examinations. But, considering the limitations imposed by frequent closure of education institutions due to pandemic since the last two academic sessions, the wisdom calls for exercising formative and summative assessment on the pattern as envisaged in CCE for a reasonably fair assessment.
Indisputably, the educational institutions will have to shoulder the additional burden of creating and practicing the newer continuous assessment tools to capture the continuous learning of their students. However, it is not very difficult in the present time when all concerned are coherently exposed to the use of IT tools and facilities provided in it. The board and education institutions together shall have to be reasonable towards students engulfed in the unequal availability of computers/laptops/smartphones/tablets, internet connectivity, the effectiveness of online teaching, and various socio-economic challenges concerning the students from economically weaker sections and those in remote parts of the country.
With the special scheme of assessment for board examinations of classes 10 and 12 being enforced by the central board, the respective state examination boards will also be under obligation to come up with similar strategies with cosmetic changes suiting their constraints. Therefore, it is prudent on part of the students of respective classes and preceding classes to gear up for getting assessed accordingly. The institutions shall now be assessing their students frequently and the student performance in such assessments cumulatively may affect their overall performance. Hence the alertness of students in classes being held in whatsoever format, self-learning initiatives for seeking knowledge of the subjects taught, will help them in performing well in these periodic assessments which will eventually be contributing to the final assessment outcome compiled by the board.
Unequivocally, the frequent periodic assessment offers ease to students in terms of the reduced domain of assessment which permits them to perform better as compared to the situation in which the domain of assessment is vast. The students getting assessed periodically about their learnings in different portions of the syllabus also ensures the qualitative improvement of learning level assessment as a whole. Under the changed circumstances, the students have to be punctilious to study continually and remain engaged with subjects for proper learning. Students also come to know the outcome of their internal assessments and have an opportunity to improve upon in the next assessment.
As regards the teachers, extra efforts will be inevitably required from their side for carrying out periodical learning level assessments. The compelling circumstances are likely to be created by the students for learning the subjects properly throughout the period in which the teaching-learning process is carried out. Irrespective of whether the teaching activities are online or offline, the increase in aspiration level of students about their better competencies in subject domain is bound to exhibit significant improvement in quality of education. Teachers will be accruing the advantage of knowing the extent of thrust required for teaching the relevant portions of syllabus and can amend their teaching style and rigour.
In exercising the formative and summative assessment together, the board has to meticulously devise the digital framework for capturing student performance. The education institution has to facilitate its teachers for making them creative and fastidious in evolving and executing the assessment strategies with the utmost integrity. The efficacy of the whole process of assessment lies primarily in the institution-level assessment and the prescribed two-term assessments carried out by the board. Given the board functioning remotely for all students enrolled in the institutions affiliated to it uniformly, the rationality of term assessment tools can not be subjected to scrutiny unless some big fallacy is there. However, the institution-level assessment getting executed through different teachers, the scope of variance in assessment method, tools, and its quality can not be ruled out. It is obligatory on the part of the institution to prepare and announce a rational and acceptable evaluation strategy in line with that decided by the board. The transparency in student assessment carried out by the institution is extremely essential to build confidence in the students about the remodelled evaluation strategy in the current academic session.
The reduction in syllabus for respective classes is also on the anvil in this academic session too like the previous session. The insufficiency of time for holding teaching-learning interactions to complete the earlier prescribed syllabus is the logic put forth. Without arguing in favour or against the syllabus reduction, the alternative of stratification of syllabus in respect to the rigour requirement in teaching respective portions could have yielded completeness of learning and no truncation of syllabus.
Undoubtedly the board has brought forward a contingency plan to handle any exigency due to pandemic, nevertheless, the education institutions have to proactively sensitize their teachers and students for achieving fair assessment outcomes. This warrants the board and institution to set up a suitable assessment framework that has integrity, fairness, and transparency in a time-bound manner so that no student has any doubt about his/her learning level assessment. Concerted efforts are required for sustaining the authenticity, reliability, and validity of the student assessment in board examinations.