With the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) officially announcing for its decision to introduce grading for Class X from 2008, Board examinations will finally come without the pass or fail tag for students.
The nine-point scale grading system will require students to get qualifying grades in four of the five subjects to get promoted to the next level. It had been decided not to carry pass or fail on the marksheets of students, who will have four options to improve on their grades within a period of two years from their exam. The grading system will adopt a five-point scale, which means awarding students grades from A to E. This will eliminate the schools from showing raw scores on the evaluation report of each student.
The new grading system is based on two parameters - absolute and percentile marks. There is a uniform model to be followed in assessing all subjects. But the parameters are different for different subjects depending upon the difficulty level. For example, A star grade would signify 9 points for Maths, while the same would signify 7 points for English.
Explaining the system , CBSE Chairman Ashok Ganguly said, though there will be subject-wise grades, no cumulative grade will be awarded, as our mark sheets do not carry the total marks at present. The last grade will be the un-qualifying grade and this will decide whether the candidate has passed the exam or failed it. Gradually the word fail would be abolished once this system is successfully implemented. This would reduce stress on students.
While many principals, teachers, students and parents have welcomed the proposal in the broadest of terms, several others have voiced apprehensions that range from concerns about `favouring the mediocre to the detriment of the brilliant to misgivings about implementing a continuous evaluation system in overcrowded schools. The first argument and perhaps, the most powerful put forward by proponents of the switchover is that the introduction of grading will reduce stress on students and discourage 'unhealthy' competition among them.
In the present system, there is a lot of stress on the students. They are evaluated only on the basis of their marks. But the grading system will help reduce the mental stress experienced by students. From mere reproduction of what they have learnt in class, the proposed system will help identify their inner talents. It is student-friendly and is a universally accepted mode of rating a student's capabilities.
Further the introduction of grading will do away with unnecessary competition among students for top marks and will put an end to the `hero or zero syndrome prevalent in many schools.
Though competition is the need for the industry today but the need is competency that includes knowledge, skills and value. With the introduction of a skills-based grading system, the teaching approach itself undergoes a drastic change and learning will become a joyful experience.
"Students will gain more confidence in this system. They will start enjoying learning," says Maya Mohan, Principal, Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Vaduthala. She feels that pressure from parents to perform will come down on account of the grading system.
On the other side the difference of opinion is only about the grading system, and it begins on the concept of competition in schools. Many students and teachers ask why competition should not be there in schools when it is unavoidable the minute a student steps out of these institutions. Many students were of the view that grading would penalise brilliant students and mollycoddle the mediocre.
According to some students, marks received in an examination let them know where exactly they stands on the academic ladder. Further a grade is very vague can lead to more stress in the student who does not really know theiractual performance in an examination. Some felt that grading would actually be a disincentive to performance. For these students bracketing the top-ranking students with those who had performed less brilliantly in examinations is unpardonable. Even if you introduce grades, parents are still going to want to know their child's marks," Aditya, a class 10th student pointed out. Discouraging the students to excel, a student who scores 91 per cent will be put in the same compartment as a student who scores 94 per cent.
CBSE asserts that grades are being introduced "in anticipation of the challenges which the secondary education system would face in the new millennium" and "the new grading system is being adopted to end the stigma of being labelled as "fail" in any examination" as put across at the conference. Well, to most educators the idea seems almost absurd. They are more than convinced that this will only prove more of an escape route, both for students as well as the secondary education system, than face challenges. Students, in fact, will be trained to avoid challenges in the garb of grades, after all CBSE promises "no failures".
Further this complacency is going to percolate to the grassroots level, reducing the school authorities to mere puppets. "After all on what criteria will schools detain a child in a class if he/she is unfit for the higher one," questions a school administrator.
Looking at both sides of the coin and taking into consideration the Stress in studies which is driving up the suicide rates among students, grading will definitely help students be more at ease with studies. Further it would minimise the bad effect that peer and parental pressure had on young minds. Susan, a student of tenth class also thinks on similar lines, "The (grading) system will help reduce the stress related to exams. It will also cut down competition where a student struggles to get at least one mark more than his friend," she says. Thus the grading system would change the very concept of education offered. Emphasizing on education through years rather than on a day's exam it will help students giving them the friendly move even during examinations. Enabling students the freedom of expression it would boost their morale thereby enriching their personality.