CBSE Open Book Exam welcomed by Principals

Principals of city schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) have welcomed the “open book exam” concept but academicians have warned that students and schools are being made to deal with “too many changes, too soon”. Planned implementation, with adequate training of teachers, is key to making it a success, they said.

The “open book exam” concept has been introduced by CBSE for classes X and XII from next year. The CBSE had also, in the recent past, introduced assessment reforms like the “school-based assessment system” and “continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE)”. The new concept does not exacly allow students to carry textbooks inside the exam hall but will inform them in advance (four months) about the chapters and paragraphs from which analytical questions would be asked in the exam.

According to CBSE chairman Vineet Joshi, it would test the ‘higher order thinking skills’ (HOTS) of students besides helping them to stop relying on a rote-based methodology.

“It would be a Pre-Announced Test (PAT)… the questions asked will not be simple and straightforward, They will framed in a way that will test a student’s analytical skills,” he said.

Many principals of CBSE schools said the concept was aimed at correcting the “wrongs in the system”. Deepshikha Srivastava, principal of Rajhans Vidyalaya that introduced the open book concept last year in class XI, said the proposal would work if the teachers are first trained and acquainted with the assessment system.

“With a sudden change in the class XI curriculum, we felt that students were finding it difficult to absorb the content. Thus we started the open book concept in their assignments and it worked well to a certain extent. The aim was to ensure that students read the entire book and understand the content, instead of reading certain chapters for giving common entrance tests,” she said.

Avnita Bir, principal of R N Podar School, said, “The thought process behind concepts like open book and introduction of problem-solving assessment is to move away from rote learning to developing analytical skills among children from an early age. We are yet to receive a circular on the open book concept. But, whatever format it finally takes, it will require a different approach towards teaching and learning.”

Academicians cited the dismal performance of India at its debut Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) — a standardised assessment to evaluate school students (15-year-olds) in mathematical science and science literacy. “That our education system is not geared towards developing analytical skills should never be an excuse for poor performance. The CBSE move is a welcome step but its implementation should be planned,” a senior academician said.

Many warn against bringing in reforms one after another. A former principal of a CBSE school said, “Getting reform after reform in the current system is not only troubling students but also teachers and principals. It will have to wait at least until the previous ones are implemented systematically. Such things need proper training and most importantly, a mental preparedness among teachers and students.”

Former secretary of Maharashtra state board Mumbai division Basanti Roy said, “The CBSE is coming up with new schemes and calling them student-friendly, which is true but they may not help students in the long run. I feel the open book exam system is not that appropriate. For various reasons, these students may choose to go to other boards after class X; they will not get this facility there. This system works at the higher level of education where students need to retain a huge amount of information. They should instead have a system that would encourage analytical learning; and help students to have a basic knowledge of the fundamentals.”

Arundhati Chavan, president of Parent-Teachers Association United Forum, said, “It is a good move but the question is how will it be implemented. It requires proper skills to set the questions. Else, the concept will not serve its purpose.”

Source : The Indian Express dated 16.08.2012

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