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Embarrassed by series of blunders in Class 10 & 12 board papers, CBSE sets up review panel

A controversial reference to 'feminists' in a CBSE question paper Saturday resulted not only in social media criticism, but Parliament uproar. It's the third paper to stoke a row this month.

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New Delhi: The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Monday issued a statement announcing the setting up of “an expert committee to thoroughly review and strengthen the question paper setting process”.

The move follows repeated complaints of blunders in the board’s question papers for the Class 10 and 12 term 1 examinations. At least three blunders have been highlighted in CBSE questions papers this month, including one that caused an uproar in Parliament Monday for a controversial reference to feminists.

In an English paper for Class 10 Saturday, one of the questions included a passage that read, “In the 20th century children became fewer and feminist revolt was the result. With discipline no longer the chief problem, family life underwent a change.”

The passage was severely criticised on social media, with Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul Gandhi, and Delhi Commission for Women Chairperson Swati Maliwal taking to Twitter in protest.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi too raised the issue in Parliament. The uproar resulted in the board dropping the question from the evaluation process and awarding compensatory marks to students in its stead.

Earlier, a question on the 2002 Gujarat riots, included in the sociology paper for Class 12 students, had created a controversy and the board had to eventually issue a response. On Saturday, another English question paper for Class 10 reportedly had many errors — twice in the paper, questions in the multiple-choice section were missing, with the paper containing only options for the answer.

In its statement Monday, released on Twitter, the CBSE also said the setting up of the expert committee was “to avoid such occurrences in future”.

Following the uproar over question papers this year, teachers and educational experts have voiced concern over the board’s new format of assessment, and also raised questions over the training of those setting the question paper.

Also read: Not just CCTV & invigilators, CBSE will use data analytics to identify cheating in exams

‘New assessment format trying’

Many school teachers interviewed by ThePrint claimed that this was probably the first time that so many errors were being reported in CBSE question papers. One of the main reasons for this, according to the teachers, was the new assessment format introduced by the board this year — objective-type questions that still required the students to reflect, and tested his or her cognitive skills.  

A principal at a Delhi school told ThePrint on condition of anonymity that “the kind of discrepancies that are coming up in the CBSE question papers could have been avoided had the board trained their paper-setters and moderators well”.

She added: “They want to ask questions that are aligned with the new National Education Policy and are more reflective in nature, but then they are asking things like whether feminism leads to the downfall of a family. These things are not what we can be teaching our students.”

A school teacher in Delhi, Rutuja Dhanker, claimed that the exams have been a harrowing experience for teachers, students and parents, because the board has introduced too many changes this time — two board exams in a year, objective-type questions, and also the kind of questions being asked.

“I think it’s just too much to take in for the students and teachers as well. With all the changes that have been initiated from this academic year, adjusting has been a little difficult,” said Dhanker.

A Surat-based school teacher, who did not wish to be named, blamed the objective-type format of the question paper for the discrepancies. “Minor errors occurred in question papers earlier as well, but the current format of questions gives more room for errors to be reflected. There are answers and questions both in the paper and so more mistakes can happen,” he said.

Also read: CBSE lets Class 9 & 10 students do experiments at home, teachers welcome ‘self-learning’

’10 years experience required’

The identity of those setting the question paper and moderators for questions, is kept confidential by the board.

According to board rules, all paper-setters, moderators, secrecy officers, head examiners and examiners are appointed by the CBSE chairman, in accordance with provisions contained in the board’s regulations and examination byelaws.

The regulation mandates that no person whose “near relation” — including wife/husband, sons and daughters and members of their family; nephew, niece or similar relations of wife/husband — is appearing or has appeared at an examination conducted by the board in that year may set the paper.

The paper-setter is required to have a postgraduate degree in the relevant subject or allied subject. He or she is also required to have a minimum of 10 years’ experience of teaching the relevant subject.

The paper-setter is also required to make a declaration that he or she has “not written or revised a guide-book, help-book, key or similar other matter, with whatsoever name, relating to the subject”. The rules add that the person should not be “engaging himself/herself in private tuitions and/or coaching at private institutions or carrying out similar other work”.

The board rules also mandate that the paper-setter should ensure the question paper has been set according to the syllabus of the subject, blueprint, design and textbooks, and recommended books for the subject.

They are also expected to ensure that no question is “erroneously” or “ambiguously” worded, leading to an interpretation different from the intended question.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: SC refuses to provide online mode option for CBSE, CISCE board exams


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