The new testing system will cover English, Hindi, mathematics, science and social science for class IX, and geography, economics and biology for class XI

With the CBSE releasing the syllabus for its first open text-based assessment (OTBA), students and teachers across schools in the city are gearing up for the new examination system that begins in March.

A small component of the paper, worth 10 marks, will come under OTBA.

The new testing system will cover English, Hindi, mathematics, science and social science for class IX, and geography, economics and biology for class XI.

A circular sent by the Board to affiliated schools said the main motive behind implementing this system is strengthening students’ analytical and theoretical skills and moving away from rote learning.

Some school heads said getting their teachers and students prepared is a challenging task. “Though the students will be allowed to take textbooks into the examination hall and consult these while answering questions, it is much likely they won’t be asked structured questions with direct answers,” said V. Suma Padmanabhan, principal, Asan Memorial Senior Secondary School.

The challenge, she said, is in getting students to use the given data to think differently. “They are looking at it as comprehension. We need to make them ask questions different from the usual ‘whys’ and ‘hows.’ The system cannot work unless there is a lot of teacher-student interaction,” she said.

Some said the material released by the Board is interesting and contemporary. “Topics such as unequal sex ratio or the Uttarakhand tragedy will help students think and form opinions, and understand social responsibility,” said M. Kalpana, a school teacher.

Padmini Sriram, principal, Hindu Senior Secondary School, said the portion on child labour is especially interesting as it will lead to discussions among children.

Recently, CBSE’s academic director, Sadhana Parashar, had written to schools asking teachers to read, discuss and analyse the material, and then assign the text material to students in groups for further understanding.

“The only challenge here is to train teachers to anticipate likely questions so students do not have to go back to the extract often, while writing the exam,” said Ms. Sriram.

Some parents are anxious, however. “Many of us are yet to look at the portion carefully as we have been busy with the festival holidays. Since the board has restricted the OTBA to 10 marks, hopefully, there is not much to worry about,” said P. Shanmuga, a parent.

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