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Ah! XII Board Exams Cancelled

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Delight, a sigh of relief for all stakeholders. It was a mixed bag of feelings for students who missed a chance to excel and out perform their grade X & XI results after the news of the cancellation of grade 12 Board trickled in.

Let assessments be a part of learning and not just a method of testing,’’

Revered academician Aditi Misra opens her heart to SUBURB on the big announcement.   

The evening of June 1, 2021, saw many homes heaving a sigh of relief when parents and students of Class XII heard the announcement that the Board Exam for class XII, for 2021, had been cancelled. We, as teachers were also very relieved because we were unable to understand how we would ensure the safety of the children and the teachers while conducting a physical offline exam.

The past few weeks have been tremendously stressful for everybody in India, with the Corona cases rising, with more and more people reaching hospitals, and with more and more people we know, succumbing to the infection. In such a situation, leave aside the physicality of the exam, we were worried that how will a child, who has gone through this kind of stress and anxiety, be even ready to prepare for an exam?

As educators, we have also been debating for decades now how to assess a child’s academic strengths and skill-sets more constructively and authentically.

How fair is it to judge a child based on one exam?

As a mother and as a teacher, I believe that one exam, lasting three hours at the end of a year, should not be the determiner for a child’s promotion or award or whatever they need to pursue in life. But, on the other hand, that one day could be a game-changer for the child. A child can be unwell; a child can be disturbed on that one day. And if the child has been a high achiever or a reasonably hard-working child, it is not fair that just because, for those three hours, he or she could not perform in a pen and paper test, we put that result on his report card or his mark sheet.

It is high time now!

 Having said that, despite all the debates, we keep coming back to a pen and paper test for the want of another method. But it’s time now! I think this is one of the gifts of Corona, if I may call it that, it’s forcing us to rethink and giving us an opportunity to review and change the system as it stands today.

I think all of us, as educators must put their heads together to assess children in a more systematic, child-friendly way, so that the entire onus does not lie on one exam at the end of the year.

Some years ago, till class X, we had introduced the idea of Continuous and Comprehensive Assessment, the CCE, and that was a good system. But once again, it tested only a few skills of the child, and due to lack of training in a certain way, it remained a reform that did not really reach out to everybody. 

So, we need to work on certain skill sets and parameters which would help the child, not just in passing exams and moving on but also help him or her in other spheres of life, in the workspace.

A workspace and students in life need skills to learn collaboration, communication, critical thinking, problem-solving methodology, creativity and digital literacy. These are needed not just for an exam but for leading a good life. 

So, we need to devise a way to collaborate, communicate, and critical thinking becomes part of our assessment and evaluation patterns. And that these assessments and evaluations carry on throughout the year without the child even feeling the stress of it.

A step beyond pen & paper

When the stress goes out of learning and assessing, then learning becomes more wholesome, more long-lasting and perhaps more fruitful. India is a beautiful and diverse country. This diversity must also reflect in assessment. It cannot be a one-size-fits-all model.

There must be spaces for students to research local, regional environments. So, for students to know their immediate region, they can do a project on it, maybe present it in a certain way so that not only is their understanding of their immediate environment made it more real, but the way they present it for everyone to see also becomes more meaningful. Let the child decide the subject of his or her research work and the project based on his environment.  So the skill of research can be something that must be honed and which must be given space in the assessment and evaluation firmament.

In the future, if we were to think of projects as a method of evaluation, these projects need not be the typical pen and paper ones made in files, with children just cutting up magazines and papers. Instead, they can be presented unusually or in different ways through a podcast, maybe through a short film or a presentation in any way through any communication, which gets the idea across. Communication is and will be an essential skill for generations to come.

Art must be given space in the assessment framework because, without art, no presentation can be aesthetically appealing. India has a wide variety of art and craft forms, and if these art forms get incorporated within projects, I think that would be the way forward.

Needless to say, to implement all these changes, there will have to be a sea change in the way all of us think. Each one of us has to unlearn and relearn a lot. Parents must accept that assessments need not create fear, and teachers must learn creative ways of assessing a child.

Children should be able to take assessments in their stride and find joy in doing something creative and presenting it, to indicate that they have reached a certain milestone. I am sure that these changes will usher in a much-needed revolution in the way students are taught, in the way teachers teach, in the way parents accept this change, and lastly, in the way we all assess this new teaching-learning process. But the change can happen when all stakeholders work together to make it happen. It cannot happen in silos. It cannot happen individually. It is a gradual process but surely will have a deeper impact on learning and assessing. 

About the author: With over three decades of rich experience as an academician, Aditi Misra is highly respected as a creative change maker in the education sector. She is Director Principal Delhi Public School, Sector-45, Gurgaon.

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