Thursday, August 30, 2012

Boards agree to standardized school-leaving examination

In another step towards simplifying and standardizing admissions to engineering schools, various education boards across the country have agreed to standardize examinations at the school-leaving level. This means that examinations conducted by the 29 boards across the country will have a similar structure and pattern, but different questions.

The move will “lead to a balanced evaluation system in our schools and help normalization of marks for the common admission test for engineering colleges”, said Vinit Joshi, President of the Council of Boards of School Education in India (Cobse) and Chairman of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). He added that the change has already been discussed by Cobse and would “do away the existing differences of various school boards”.

That’s important because India has been trying to move towards a so-called “one-nation, one-test” policy for admission to all central government-run engineering colleges. The proposal has been a controversial one because the exam gives additional weightage to marks scored by students in their school-leaving examination. The iconic Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) were at the forefront of the fight against this change, but the issue has since been settled, with all central government-run engineering colleges such as the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and the Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) agreeing to a 40% weightage to marks in the school-leaving examination and the rest to the common entrance exam.
For IITs, the selection will be based on an advanced exam that will be conducted after the common test, and only students in the top 20 percentile of each board will be eligible.

The standardization the boards have agreed to will address a critical issue. “When you give 40% weight to the school board, the question arises as to what is the basis of rationalization in a country where so many boards exist,” said R.P. Sinha, Chairman of the Bihar School Examination Board. “This (standard question pattern) will be a natural solution to the normalization process. The next step could be a common marking pattern.”

Indeed, normalization across boards was proving a challenge and a professor at IIT-Delhi admits that that was one reason for the IITs’ initial opposition to the “one-nation, one-test” policy. The standardization of exams will mean that all boards will conduct examinations of similar duration that have the same number and similar type of questions (say, 10 multiple-choice, five short-answer, and three long-answer ones, explained Joshi). It will also change the perception that a certain board is better than another, or that its exams are easier to score in. “A standardized question pattern will stop the migration of students from one learning environment to another environment perceived to be better,” said Sangeeta Bhatia, principal of Delhi-based KIIT World School.

Around 2.5 million students across India appear for the school-leaving exam every year. Of these, around 1.5 million apply to IITs or other engineering schools.

Source: Mint, August 30, 2012

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