Students of Classes IX and XI studying in schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) will, for the first time, take the Open Text-Based Assessment (OTBA) in March 2014. Through this new method of assessment, the CBSE intends to “cater to the varied abilities of individual strength of learners” as well as “incorporate analytical and theoretical skills” that move away from memorisation.
Teachers in Bangalore-based CBSE schools, however, feel that there is a lack of clarity on the mode of assessment and the type of teaching strategies that would be required to ensure that the assessment achieves the objective.
According to a circular issued to the heads of institutions affiliated to the CBSE, the new form of assessment would be a part of the session-ending exam and consists of 10 marks. Students will be given half-an-hour additional time to attempt the OTBA questions.
For the OTBA, students have been given material in the form of case studies, diagram, picture, cartoon or a mind map, and the concepts will be chosen from the syllabi. Based on the material given, the questions will be subjective, creative or open-ended.
Some of the themes for the OTBA introduced for Class IX include planning a garden, information technology and values, clean air – a shared concern, and migration. For Class XI, the themes include medical tourism in India, Incredible India, Indian summer monsoon and the Himalayan tsunami.
Academics emphasise that the success of the new assessment was “heavily dependent” on the teacher’s role.
J. Anantha Padamanabhan, principal, Kendriya Vidalaya, M.G. Railway Colony, said the new assessment demands a shift from the conventional way of teaching. “Teachers need to be trained to make students think analytically. This is not a mere fact-finding or information-gathering exercise. The OTBA aims to develop an analytical line of thinking among students,” he said. As the themes are broad, teachers said that there are several grey areas about how students need to be trained. A National Public School teacher said teachers in his school had not been invited for workshops. He added that teachers were “confused” about how to break away from traditional teaching.
A teacher from Delhi Public School, who attended a workshop on the OTBA, said there was no clarity on the mode of assessment. She said the board should clarify issues as early as possible as the assessment had to be carried out in March.
Students, on the other hand, said the new system was unlikely to make a difference in the learning pattern as it was being introduced at a stage when their learning methods would have already set in. A Class XI student of The Deen’s Academy School, Jahnvi Chauhan, said, “The CBSE has introduced several new programmes, from Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation to OTBA; they are introducing these concepts without providing any clarity. When our teachers themselves are unsure of how the assessment would be, how can we prepare for it?” she said.
Sources in the CBSE Regional Office, Chennai, said schools could contact the academic wing of the CBSE Headquarters in New Delhi for clarifications. They said the board would conduct workshops on OTBA for teachers in the coming months.