CBSE Math Board Exam Fiasco: Why Students and Parents should blame Teachers and Schools and not the Board!

Vansh Saluja for BeyondHeadlines

I was reading a lot of messages from students/parents/teachers on social media and newspapers regarding the ‘Mathematics’ Board paper since the day it took place. All of them were disappointed with the paper owing to the ‘changed pattern’ and ‘rise in difficulty level’. Everyone was blaming the CBSE, many demanding them to re-conduct the examination and petitioning to the board online and offline. In my opinion, we’re missing the whole point here and blaming the wrong people.

The Teachers and Schools are solely responsible for whatever has happened with students. Have you noticed the statements of teachers/schools given to the media? Here are some:

“The questions were not out of syllabus, but needed in-depth knowledge and HOTS. It was more of an application-based paper, much different from the ‘traditional’ pattern of the paper,” said X.

“A large percentage of the question paper was not from the NCERT textbook, which is the usual pattern followed over years and needed more analytical skills.” said Y.

Teachers felt that the paper required higher order thinking skills (HOTS) which, as per the examination pattern, forms 10 to 20 per cent of the paper – The Hindu

“Students losing confidence won’t just affect their performance in subsequent papers but also entrance tests they may take for college admissions.” said X Principal

“This sort of exam is very demoralizing for the child. There’s a strong rumor that this is meant to get the aggregate percentages down but that doesn’t help the morale of the child,” said Y Principal

“It’s been a very recent trend in CBSE to have application-based questions. I am not against such questions, but doing it in such a short notice is very disorienting.” said Z Principal

Question papers like these expose the kind of teaching in Schools with over emphasis on ‘standardized’ exams, rote-learning, set patterns while ignoring the applicability of the subject. Schools are Marks hungry. They want results at any costs and that’s why they have repeated cycles of exams for students to be ‘well prepared’. However, their complete focus is on ‘cracking of Board exams’ and not teaching the subject per se. It’s all about how students are going to attempt the exam- remember teachers asking you to ‘mark important questions’ as it’s a ‘Board favorite’. All teaching is ‘Exam-centric’ and not ‘learning-centric’.

Now, when a question paper came which actually tested the application and analytical skills of students, schools and teachers are in a fix. They themselves are saying that the ‘exam was not according to the traditional pattern’. What does this prove? This proves that most Teachers in schools have been teaching you not to make you learn more about the subject but whatever there’s in the syllabus and whatever is ‘expected’ to come in the Exams. Ask yourselves- Is this the right kind of Education?

It’s laughable to see Teachers and Schools blame CBSE while they comfortably ignore their own mistakes. When I was in School, I’d questioned the manner in which we were taught and how the emphasis of teachers was only based on ‘equipping the students for Boards’. Some teachers accused me of provoking students against the Education System back then. I think it’s enough. And it’s time that we speak. Students must ask these questions from their teachers. Why should they suffer because of faulty teaching patterns adopted? If teachers cannot equip students to ‘apply’ the concepts from book, what justice do they do to the noble profession that is teaching? A job of a teacher should be to liberate the minds of the students, give them a mind of their own, make them capable to reason and analyze for themselves rather than narrowing it down to ‘doing questions from NCERT books thoroughly. Why? Because the Board Exam is based on that’. It’s sad that education has been reduced to ‘equipping students how to attempt Exams’ and criticize, bombard and rubbish the examination pattern which didn’t go according to the ‘plan’ or how students were ‘equipped to attempt’.

I think it’s a welcome change that CBSE has given more emphasis on ‘application-based’ questions this time rather than theoretical questions based on rote-learning. A student’s true potential can only be judged by how he applies the knowledge he’s gathered over the years rather than blurting out whatever was rote-learned during months preceding the exams. Every student would welcome this but not at this juncture. Everyone was ‘equipped’ to give that ‘traditional’ kind of a paper. So, it’s not that the students don’t want application-based learning and discarding of rote-based learning system but since the teachers and schools had ‘programmed’ and ‘equipped’ the students in a certain manner, most of them were surprised with the so-called ‘difficulty level’.

I’ve talked to several students who gave the paper yesterday. None of them is saying that questions were out of course. They were just surprised because they hadn’t expected these kind of questions and it took them more time to solve them. They weren’t ‘equipped’ well to solve these questions. Who equips them? Teachers and the School.

Last time when the CBSE implemented the CCE scheme, the schools ruined it with faulty implementation. EVERY school ignored the spirit of the scheme and focused on how to increase the 10 CGPAs since the evaluation lied directly with the school.

Everyone has a lesson to take from this fiasco.

Lessons for Students: Let students take a stand and not let schools/teachers ruin the ‘Application-based’ learning CBSE is trying to introduce. Most students want application-based learning. They are sick and tired of rote learning things and blurting it out on the answer sheets. Under the influence of teachers/parents, students are unwilling to criticize the system publicly or question teachers the manner in which we are taught. Also, most students take refuge in statements given by teachers. For example, “Even the teacher was saying, the paper was ‘difficult’ and not according to ‘pattern'” She must be right. STOP! Let’s have a mind of our own and question teachers/schools the way they teach us. Most Schools charge hefty fees. We are paying them to provide us service, this in essence means that students and parents are consumers. They have a right to question and demand accountability. If we don’t question or speak up, students will continue to suffer because whatever happens, students are the ultimate victims, like in this case.

Lessons for Teachers: I’ve met some very passionate teachers in my lifetime. They love their subject and they try to impart as much knowledge as they possess to their students. But such teachers are being tied down with the regressive education system we have. So, it’s not that we do not possess quality teachers but the demands of standardized examinations and hunger for marks/results are such that they have to alter their way of teaching and focus their teaching centring around Exams. This must change. Teachers should be given freedom to teach students in a way they can best impart them knowledge. Teaching should be learning-oriented and not examination-centric. This paper should be an eye-opener and teachers must introspect their role. Teachers and Schools are the most important institution in our Nation. They build future generations. It is in their hands to mould the future generations. Stop. Take a deep breath. And Introspect. India is the Youngest Nation. Don’t let the Demographic Dividend go waste, please. You all have a unique opportunity to shape the future of our Nation. The magnitude of responsibility is huge.

Lessons For the Board: Initiatives like moving towards a system based on application learning would have few critics. Everyone would welcome it. We’ve long suffered under the system based on rote-learn. But all such initiatives should be carefully planned and implemented. Remember what ‘shock therapy’ reforms led to in Russia? Let’s not give education reforms the tinch of shock therapy. Lenient marking of such papers this time is in order and a better implementation of this system from next year onwards is required. Please don’t let this revolutionary reform process go waste. There’ll be a lot of criticism but you must go ahead with it consulting all stakeholders and building consensus.

“Even if I am a minority of one, truth is still the truth” – Mahatma Gandhi

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