Kurubaran Udhayshankher is all set. In less than a month's time the class X student will sit for the Board examination. Sounding reasonably confident, the teenager says, “I am not too anxious, as I think the exposure to a Board examination is important.”

Several students like Kurubaran, going to schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), for the first time got a chance to make a choice regarding their final examination. While some opted for it, some preferred the examination conducted by the school.

Board exam versus school exam

The examinations conducted by the Board and the schools essentially differ on three major grounds — centre, dates and evaluation. Students who opted for the Board examination will take the examination at another centre, while those appearing for the school-based examination will take it in their own school.

The examinations would mostly be on different dates. The CBSE, which has announced dates for its class X examinations as March 1 to 23, has asked schools to hold their examinations anytime between March 15 and 28.

The question paper for the school examination could be picked from a pool of papers from the Board, or be a combination of question papers in the pool or the school's own paper, which would be sent to the Board later, with the marking scheme, according to G. Neelakantan, Principal, Sivaswami Kalalaya Senior Secondary School.

The evaluation for the Board examination would be done by external evaluators, while students taking the school-conducted examination could be evaluated by their own teachers.

V. Suma Padmanabhan, Principal, Asan Memorial Senior Secondary School, says there is no difference at all in the level of difficulty in the two exams. “A good number of parents are comfortable with the Board-conducted exam. The school-conducted exam would have a more flexible time-table,” she adds.

CCE

The choice in examination is part of a larger scheme of reforms introduced by the CBSE, including the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE). The CCE has certain advantages, but also comes with some challenges, students and parents note.

Dharshinee Venugopal, studying in class X at Chettinad Vidyashram, likes the CCE because it allows her to study select portions of the year's syllabus for the examination. “But, I think it is better to have one common exam. There is still some confusion. Some of my classmates' parents think a decision can be taken based on the marks in the final examination,” she says.

Parents say that the pressure has not gone down, but ironically, increased in some cases. Sulochana Venugopal, a parent, feels the CCE has added to the tension.

Aruna Vishwanathan, another parent, says her son is asked to do two social studies projects in a month and each warrants about five hours of work.

“This is besides assignments, monthly tests and other competitive exams that students in high school prepare for. Earlier, I would get tensed only three months before the exam, but ever since the CCE was introduced, I am tensed throughout the year,” she says.

Real choice?

While the CCE and the Board examination being made optional seek to give students more flexibility and choice, do all students get to make that choice?

Students from schools such as Ordnance Clothing Factory School in Avadi, for instance, have no choice but to take the board-conducted exam as the school does not have higher secondary classes.

But, there are some schools where a majority of the students have signed up for the Board examination as has been in Sri Ramdayal Khemka Vivekananda Vidyalaya in Thiruvottiyur.

For students who wish to switch over to a different stream such as State Board, the Board examination is the only option.

All the same, not all students who appear for the Board examination have to necessarily go to others streams such as the State Board, as a few schools have made out to their students.

The CBSE has made it clear that schools should not discriminate between students for class XI “promotion” based on the examination they appeared for.

However, schools say students opting for the examination conducted by school have a better change of getting the group of their choice in Plus-Two.

What they say

H. Ezhil Murugan, class X, Vidya Mandir Senior Secondary School, Mylapore: I am a little tensed. After all, whether the exam is conducted by the Board or school, it is still an examination to evaluate our performance. Quite a number of my classmates have opted for school-based exam, but I have decided to take the Board exam as I plan to change my school. My school took us on an excursion, perhaps to help us relax us before our exams and that was good.”

Mohana Narayanan, visiting counsellor to schools: Every school must have a counsellor, and their role is very significant especially before examinations, not only to support children but also teachers.Students worry about issues like inability to concentrate, having to give up my extra-curricular activities and time management. I would suggest that children get a medical test done and have the right nutritional supplements.Parental support is equally important to handle exam-related stress.

G. Neelakantan, Principal, Sivaswami Kalalaya Senior Secondary School: “Schools cannot force students opting for the Board examination to leave the institution. In our school we have evolved a system in consultation with parents. Students who opt for the school-based examination will get the group of their choice in Plus Two. There is a place for children who take the Board examination, too. But they will get the group of their choice only subject to vacancy in that section, after accommodating all the students who took the school-based examination.”

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