No Exams? Principals See Opportunity to Transform Education System

Many see the ‘new normal’ as a chance to bring in a new framework of comprehensive learning.

4 min read
The cancellation of exams brings with it a whole new set of challenges.

Putting an end to months of speculations and anxiety of lakhs of students across the country, the Centre on Tuesday, 28 April, gave its nod for the cancellation of Class-12 board examinations, paving way for several state boards and the CBSE and ICSE boards to come up with a new marking system to facilitate the admission process.

However, the cancellation of exams brings with it a whole new set of challenges in terms of ensuring fair marking parameters and admission processes for universities.

With Board examinations being cancelled for the second consecutive year, several experts, veteran educationists and principals of schools and colleges see the ‘new normal’ as an opportunity to bring in a new framework of inclusive and comprehensive learning to the mainstream education system.

But first, it must be seen what marking systems the Boards come up with and if they can be used in the future, irrespective of the pandemic.


Exam Cancellation Need of the Hour, But How Should Students Be Marked?

Many school and college principals, while speaking to The Quint, felt that the cancellation of exams was the need of the hour. Delhi’s Miranda House principal Dr Bijayalaxmi Nanda said that they were waiting for the Board to announce the assessment criteria.

“I heard the CBSE secretary said that they will implement the best criteria to determine merit. However, several issues will have to be sorted out, such as whether the Board will consider classes 9, 10, 11 and 12, or just classes 11 and 12 to look at the continuous assessment, or whether it will be percentage- or percentile-based,” she said.

Nanda said that the option of conducting exams after vaccinating students would not have been feasible, considering how the drive was going.

Ameeta Mulla Wattal, principal of Delhi’s Spingdales School, said only Class-12 should be looked at to implement different permutations and combinations for assessment.

“Given the current circumstances, the only way forward are the internal assessments. However, they have never really found favour with the parents due to trust deficit. But right now, they are the only way forward. Many of the millions of children across the country have never appeared for an online test,” Wattal said.

With the anticipation of weeks being required for the new marking system to be announced by the Boards, Delhi University Vice-Chancellor Professor PC Joshi on Thursday said that students can expect a delay in the admission process this year.

Most believe that the process last year went more smoothly than expected and that colleges can be banked on to be better prepared this time.

Delhi’s Hindu College principal Prof Anju Srivastava said that changing the admission process every year wasn’t a joke, adding that the composition of classes will also change.

“We were very skeptical about the admissions last year – that it would go haywire and lead to chaos. But surprisingly, the process was smooth, successful and mostly glitch-free,” she said.

“Also, in terms of the long-term career growth of the students, it will be more of their responsibility. The same happened with the current first-years also,” she added


Way to an Education System Based Not Just on Exams?

Most principals feel that that the ‘new normal’ has paved way for the beginning of the transformation of the existing education system.

“This is now a reckoner for us to ensure that we look at assessments more flexibly and consider ways to change our mindset and marking systems,” Wattal said.

“We need to come up with learning methods and assessment standards that are more child-friendly. Such methods must inculcate the 21st-century skilling of resilience, critical thinking, and competency-based learning,” she added.

Echoing similar views, Nanda suggested that cancellation of exams for two consecutive years have drawn attention to equally important aspects, like comprehensive and immersive learning, practical understanding, and critical thinking as marking parameters while moving away from rote learning-based assessment parameters.

“This is what is called disruptive learning. When a plane breaks down, you learn how those parts worked better by reworking on that,” she said.

Nanda said several students had gone out of their way to reach out to the needy during the pandemic and their efforts must be counted during the admission process in some way.

“Comprehension, empathy, and marking students for collaborative learning can help us acknowledge them in terms of strengths and skills, and not just individualised merit. That has to be worked out,” she said.

Need to Address Issues Like Mental Health, Digital Fatigue

Many feel that issues, like the frustration of not being able to socialise with fellow students for the second consecutive year and digital fatigue and digital divide, need to be addressed for students as well as their parents.

“Counseling has to drastically increase. The problems of the students must be addressed. Many colleges, including ours, are conducting different kinds of sessions. We have to put the students on the right path. That's the kind of guidance and mentoring required,” Srivastav said.

Dr Nanda, too, stressed the importance of “emotional counselling” for students and parents along with “academic counselling.”

“Emphasis on psychological counselling on financial support should be the true change that we should look at. Ours is a public university, our fees are very very less. But even then, a parallel financial system has to be there. I don't know where the resources will come from. I am trying my best to bring in more structured financial support for students who lost their parents or meritorious kids of parents who lost their earnings. We are trying to reach out to alumni who can come forward to help,” she said.

Nanda said that during the first wave of the pandemic, the digital divide was way worse than it is now. But teachers across the country, including in the rural areas have tried to bridge the gap while overcoming their own challenges. “We have to do far more,” she added.

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