A colourful clay model crafted to explain the structure of the teeth sits in a classroom.
It, along with other projects are nearly stacked in S. Divyabharathi’s class in Lady Sivaswami Ayyar Girls Higher Secondary School.
At the end of the term, all the activities and small tests she wrote over the term will return to her not as numbers, but as a grade in a nine-point grading system introduced under the Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) system this year in government, government-aided and matriculation schools.
At the end of the first trimester of its implementation, most students like the evaluation technique, where instead of one final exam, students are assessed throughout the term through individual and group activities such as storytelling, making demonstrative models, and short pen and paper tests at the end of every unit.
At Chennai Middle School in Maduma Nagar, the classrooms have both elaborate and modest projects ranging from working models of clocks to leaves that students plucked from near their homes, and a string of paper projects.
Ganesh Kumar, headmaster, says that not only has the new evaluation system marginally improved the attendance record, but it has also removed the fear of examinations in many students.
Though several teachers and principals of schools said that it had made learning joyful and classrooms more interactive, it is teachers who are having the hardest time grappling with the system. “Since the students get forty marks through activities and slip tests, some do not take the 60 mark theory paper very seriously,” says S.A. Sharmila, a teacher, who is otherwise in favour of CCE.
Another teacher, S. Padma, said that many students had not attempted the long answers in the quarterly examinations.
Though the system, which tries to find middle ground between incessant evaluation and just one final assessment, gives flexibility to schools to structure and design activities and tests based on their requirements, little can be achieved in a crowded classroom say teachers.
V. Asha, who has been a teacher for 27 years, says the system cannot work if a classroom has over 60 students.
“Conveying to students and parents that projects are not about spending money, but about displaying the concept creatively was a hiccup initially,” she says. But, since CCE relies on student interaction, noise and unrest, earlier decried in classrooms, have now become an integral part of learning, she adds.