Testing knowledge or pressure?

Anju said a practical exam calls for not only knowledge and skills but also confidence and ease of mind.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in a latest directive to students in Class X and XII has asked them to appear for practical exams in other schools. This has made some students nervous as they have been conducting the practicals in the familiar environs of their own schools while some others say it makes no difference. The CBSE school managements have petitioned the CBSE against this measure. DC catches up with students and teachers to know their concerns.

Class XII student of The Warwin School, Vaikom, Irine Thresa Joy says one needs utmost concentration and precision while doing the practicals. "For that we require practical lab which is fully equipped and provides us a comforting atmosphere. A simple solution to all these is to do practical in our own school. So please consider this request from the side of students," she said.

"The practice of practical examination being conducted in our school has been there all these years. We are used to our apparatus and our lab environment and a sudden change in the environment is sure to increase the fear factor which we already have while facing board examination," said Surya Sankar, Sanghamitra N. and Aryan S. Kushwaha, students of Global Public School, Thiruvaniyoor, Ernakulam.

Anju John K, Class XII student of Hill Blooms School, Mananthavady, Wayanad says that the decision provides more transparency and less chances of malpractices. "However, the CBSE must consider the difficulties the students would face before going ahead with the plan."

Anju said a practical exam calls for not only knowledge and skills but also confidence and ease of mind. "I have no doubt that a student's confidence will be affected when she has to work in a totally unfamiliar lab. I feel the system should rely on external examiners with integrity rather than going overboard with a move like this," she said.

"No one has consulted students on this and no one has given any consideration how we feel about it," said Ananya Reetha Noble, Class XII student of Hill Blooms School, Mananthavady. "The travel involved, unfamiliar equipment and interschool rivalries are just some of the factors that get me tensed up. If corruption and malpractices are rampant enough to call for a step like this, isn't that because of corrupt people and examiners involved? Are those people going to get any better in a new place in an age of cell phones and WhatsApp? I feel the only people who are going to pay a steep price would be those students who play it straight."

"Of the recent changes brought out by the CBSE, the introduction of internal marks in all subjects including English and Maths is a welcome one. But the reform with regard to practical exam is hard as practicals demand familiarity with the equipment and even furniture," said Toms K. Nixon, Class XII student of Jyothis Central School Kazhakoottam. "When it comes to chemistry and physics exams, the chemicals and instruments may be placed in different places and students may waste their precious time asking the in-charges where the respective chemicals and materials are kept. So please make sure that at least we get two or three model exams conducted in the respective board practical examination centres if the reform is implemented," said Toms.

"We can't effectively handle the apparatus in a new lab different from the one we have had our practice. We might feel uncomfortable in the new atmosphere and may not be able to perform well in a time-bound manner. If we could familiarise ourselves with the examination centre with a model examination in the new centre, it would help us to face the board practicals with confidence," said Devika Vinod, Class XII student of Jyothis Central School.

“To be successful in exam, one should be stress- free and relaxed and the home school gives all these," said Jeena Reetha, Calss XII student of The Warwin School, Vaikom.

According to N.K. Bindu, teacher in physics at The Warwin School, practical exams create a lot of tension and anxiety among students even when conducted in the home school. "So if it is shifted to another school, the situation will turn for the worse and cause the good students also not to perform. It is better to conduct the practical exams in home school under the supervision of more external examiners, if the CBSE wants that," said Ms Bindu.

Sarema Devi, principal of The Warwin School, said chances for unfair means or bias are remote since an external examiner is appointed for the fair and smooth conduct of such exams in home schools.

Skorlans KM, physics teacher with Hill Blooms School, Mananthavady, said CBSE practical exams are meant to test a set of acquired practical skills. "Shifting exams out of familiar conditions will make thm more of a stress handling skills test rather than an analysis of skills in their chosen practical subjects. Training a teenager for a lab exam with unfamiliar conditions and instruments is asking for too much. The quality of the instruments and settings will differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, which can cause confusion for students who have limited experience in handling the instruments. CBSE can improve the quality of the exam and conditions of testing by fine-tuning the testing process and by proper administration, without troubling students," said Skorlans.

Smitha S, physics teacher with Global Public School, Thiruvaniyoor, said she favours the test at the home centre itself. "If the CBSE wants to stick to the reform plan, it would be better to make the children do model practical examination in the allotted centre to get familiar with the placement of chemicals and equipment," said Ms Smitha.

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