Interview Schools

‘CBSE, a pioneer of reforms’

YSK Seshukumar, chairman, CBSE.  

Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) chairman Y.S.K. Seshukumar answers a host of questions on the achievements and the role of the more than 85-year-old board. Excerpts from the interview.



Which, according to you, have been some of the most significant milestones achieved by the CBSE?

The CBSE functions under the aegis of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and has more than 16,600 schools affiliated to it. Some of its significant achievements are:

Phasing out of Class X boards and school-based assessment to alleviate students’ stress and provide autonomy to schools.

Introduction of grading system: Putting students of similar potential in the same ability bands (grades) reduces undesired comparison of small differences in marks.

Open text-based-assessment: In the 2013-14 session, the board introduced open text-based-assessment for a component (about 10-15 per cent ) in Classes IX and XI, to help learners to demonstrate original thinking.

Online marking of answer sheets: The CBSE has introduced the system of online marking of answer sheets to reduce paperwork and requests for re-checks. If it is possible, the board may upload the scanned answer sheets of all students on its website for transparency.

Evidence of assessments: In the past few years the board has initiated random collection, and the verification of formative and summative assessments conducted at the school level by subject experts appointed by the board. Their report provides feedback on the implementation of the assessment scheme at the grassroots level.

Assigning weightage to performance: In order to connect school education with higher education, the MHRD decided to assign 40 per cent weightage to marks scored in the Class XII board examination in determining the eligibility of candidates to various institutes of engineering and technology. It was a challenge before CBSE to design an appropriate method to normalise the marks. However, the CBSE completed this in a record time.

The board has also been conducting the Joint Entrance Examination (in both online and offline mode) for admission to various engineering colleges across the country, for many years now. CBSE also conducts the All India Pre-Medical Test.

Capacity building, training and advocacy including empowerment programmes: The board has been engaged in the in-service training of teachers and principals as a part of its mandate for the last decade... to support (their) continuous professional development. It has made it compulsory for all schools affiliated to it to organise at least a one-week training programme for teachers every year in association with a teachers training institute recognised by the government or by any agency identified by the board.

Vocational and skilled-based courses: The CBSE offers 40 vocational courses consisting of 100 subjects at senior secondary level in more than 630 affiliated schools in India and 11 schools in 5 countries. In association with industry partners like NIFD, WWI, CII, NHMIT and Med Varsity Online Education, the board introduced courses that are relevant to the current economy. It has also partnered with Central Institute of Technology (CIT), Australia, for introducing new vocational courses in the affiliated schools.

The board has so far organised 10 training programmes for the trainers too, in collaboration with industry partners to enhance the skills of the teachers to ensure effective curriculum transaction.

Miscellaneous Achievements

  • National Adolescence Education Programme-to make students aware of issues related to adolescence.
  • Health and Wellness Clubs-to sensitise students about health and sanitation.
  • Physical Education Cards-to promote sports and physical education.
  • Eco-Clubs-related to sensitisation about environment.
  • Life-Skills Education-to help students in developing positive Life Skills.
  • Integration of Values Education in Schools.
  • Gender Sensitization in Schools.
  • Inclusive Education and Special Concessions to Differently abled students.
  • Heritage Education, NCC, Legal Studies, Human Rights and other new subjects.
  • Integrated Test Management System (ITMS)-to supply online question papers to more than 13000 school affiliated to board.
  • Parent's Advocacy-to orient parents to understand the nature and necessity of various changes.

Today, there are a number of different boards in India. For example, ICSE and also several State boards. The last decade also witnessed the rise of international boards like IB and IGCSE in India. What differentiates the CBSE from all these other boards? What is its biggest strength over these?



The school education sector in India is one of the largest such systems in the world and there is space for every agency to work in it. It is pertinent to mention that the clientele of CBSE comprises primarily of schools catering to the educational needs of the wards of central government employees with all-India transfer liability. This stakeholder-specific nature is one peculiarity of CBSE which the other boards may not like to emulate.



The CBSE has been actively pioneering the process of reforms in school education. The greatest strength of the board has been the vision of its officials and the widespread cooperation of its vast network of affiliated schools.



Apart from board examinations, the CBSE has been conducting various professional examinations, such as the National Eligibility Test on behalf of the UGC.



The CBSE does not compete with any State or international boards. International boards might have curricula which may suit only a miniscule population in India, whereas CBSE makes efforts to disseminate the benefits of the latest educational research to the common masses in a practical and cost-effective manner.



In 2009, the CBSE introduced Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE). What has been your observation about the way CCE has influenced the imparting of education under the CBSE? Also, the present government seems to have a different take on education compared to the previous one. For example, the four-year-degree was recently rolled back. Are their chances of such a measure regarding the CCE?



CCE was introduced because the National Policy on Education-1986, National Curriculum Framework-2005 and the RTE Act-2009 categorically recommended it. As per the feedback, the stakeholders are more or less satisfied about the functioning of this system. As the focus in CCE is more on the child’s own thinking and rate of learning, many of the interpreters think that it encourages students not to study at all.



Now, a new policy on education is on the anvil. If it recommends changes in CCE, the board would make necessary changes.



In recent years, traditionalists have been shocked by the astronomical rise in percentages in board examinations. What are your thoughts?



Scoring of higher grades by a majority of students may be attributed to various factors such as availability of a more scientific design of the question paper, sample question papers, schools conducting numerous mock tests and most of all the extreme obsession of students and parents for higher grades. There have been cases of re-evaluation in which candidates who scored marks in the nineties approached the board for getting their assessment rechecked!



There are some schools which reportedly awarded inflated grades in Class X initially. However, after the introduction of evidence of assessment scheme, the practice diminished.



From encouraging rote-learning to 'saffronising' textbooks, there have been several complaints. What according to you is the real malaise plaguing Indian education and how should one address it?



CBSE neither provides curriculum for Classes I-VIII nor prescribes textbooks. The National Curriculum Framework-2005 states that there should be a multiplicity of resources for teaching and learning.



The textbook is therefore only a part of a larger resource pool and various State and district-level agencies must develop resources which may include important local heroes.



The real problem is the reluctance of other agencies to come out with good standard texts that can be used for transacting curriculum in the classrooms.



As the central government has notified that the NCERT is the academic authority for elementary education after the RTE Act-2009, CBSE does not have anything substantial to state on this issue.



Any interesting developments in the coming academic year for students and teachers?



The National Policy on Education is in the process of taking shape. After that, the National Curriculum Framework will be compiled, which will be followed by the development of textbooks. Therefore, it is too early to say anything on the exact nature of changes in the forthcoming time. However, one thing is certain that there will be changes.



What according to you is the purpose of education and how should students approach studies to get the most out of it?



One of the larger aims of education is to prepare citizens with values necessary for a democratic and globalised society. Students need to be positive in their approach towards their studies. Apart from IQ, motivation and determination also decide one’s fate. Students need to manage the available time effectively, be proactive in their approach and keep their focus on understanding and mastering important concepts and their relevance. They must regularly reflect on what they have studied and try to improve their performance. Above all, they should exercise regularly and stay healthy. This will keep them motivated to achieve their goal.



The writer is associated with children's publishing.


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