advantage the privileged child

I had written about my apprehension about the scrapping of Boards and marks and switching to grades in a recent blog. Recent news items about the modus operandi have made me even more uncomfortable. Eight hours training sessions are being planned for principals who, in turn will need to train their respective teachers. The rush in getting it all done is nothing short of frightening.

My fear was validated by a mail sent by a volunteer who had come to project why some time back. He writes: the removal of the class X board exams is something close to my heart, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the issue.

I am not exactly sure how high the stakes of class X board exams are for a child in India. However, I know that scrapping summative assessments in such a brute and unmitigated fashion and replacing it with what we call 'formative/ continous assessment' in education studies is a very very dangerous move. While it is true that formative assessment is becoming increasingly popular globally, in places like Hong Kong and Singapore, the changes are gradual, often incorporating a part of school-based formative assessment (abt 30%) with nation-wide high-stakes exams.

Such changes have to be carefully steered with good frameworks and appraisal rubrics, meticulous curriculum planning, adequate teacher training and the support of academic research institutions. I cannot imagine how things will turn out when India has not even resolved the intricate pitfalls that together contribute to a flawed school system. How are teachers going to be able to assess students in a long-term, formative fashion when many go awol ever so often? Added to the issues you raised in your blog posts about the inequality of opportunities arising from differences in socio-economic status, I really worry for all the children from the lower spectrum of the social ladder

It is believed that the new assessment will cover a student’s for scholastic (curriculum-based) and co-scholastic skills including life skills, attitudes, physical and health-related merits. It is sadly obvious that such system will broaden the gap between children of the two Indias, children from better homes are bound to have better co-scholastic skills. The marks system at least gave the less privileged a chance to compete with their privileged peers. Once again our law makers have widened an already gaping divide. Kids from better homes will have a huge advantage. That is only one side of the problem.

Let us look at the other. Grades will be awarded by teachers who till now have been awarding marks. A simple eight hours training is all that is been given to change mindsets and old ways. How can one be taught to assess skills and attitudes when one has never done so. I cannot even begin to imagine how this will happen. Maybe the teachers of swanky public schools will pass the test but what about the others. Advantage the privileged child!

Then there is a third player in all this: the parent! I know how many hours I have spent helping my children in their project and assignments. I wonder how a poor harried, illiterate mother is expected to conjure the skills and find the time to do the same. Once again advantage the privileged child.

Then how will the slum kid be able to run this race at par.

Changes and plans that concern children should never be undertaken to meet some political agenda or to seek instant gratification. They need to be tackled with care and understanding. An idea may look good and even be path breaking. However what is important is the implementation and enactment. If not done properly it can boomerang. One has to tread with caution in any situation where children are involved. Hope our law makers realise that!