Talk Point: Will India ever have a leader with guts to end the torture-fest of board exams?

A girl preparing for examinations
Illustration by Siddhant Gupta

CBSE board exams put students, parents and teachers under immense pressure. A Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation (CCE) system was introduced earlier, but was recalled for various reasons. As the CBSE examination date-sheets are declared, ThePrint asks:

Will India ever have a leader with guts to end the torture-fest of board exams?

Even Jesus in the Bible was scared of exams. We need better educators

Shyamlal Ganguli
Chief education officer with Aditya Birla Group

Boards should barely cause any stress to students. If you speak to your parents, you’ll realise that they wrote two exams in one day. Moreover, the syllabus was so vast and expansive. Now whether it is CBSE, ISC or IGCSE, they have reduced the syllabi to make things easier for students.

The CCE system is nothing new. We have just developed new terminologies for everything. Earlier, we had the CCE modelled after Cambridge. Now, good Indian schools have International Baccalaureate (IB). But like our education standards, those across the border are also falling.

The curriculum has become so poor. There are no more practicals. The marks students get are inflated. They don’t hold a mirror to their actual performance. The result is that standards in professions are also falling, whether for doctors, lawyers, chartered accountants or engineers.

The CBSE proposed moderation, but only implemented it in one stage. There are three stages to moderation: setting the paper, during assessment, and mark-sheet moderation. They only moderated marks, inflating grades. That is a redundant activity.

What is lacking most is good quality educators in schools. If kids are well prepared for board exams, they will not be that worried. Even Jesus in the Bible said he was scared of exams; they are but mortal kids. It’s natural. It is the responsibility of a seasoned educator to help them cope with their fears.

I belong to the old school of thought, where as far as education is concerned, no politician should be involved. It is the domain of educators. Most countries face problems when education and politics get intertwined. Although claims of advancement are made, the situation seems to be deteriorating.

This is a cause of concern — what kind of future citizens are we producing? One does not need a nuclear bomb button to end a country; all you need to do is wreck its education system.

Without making allegations against any party in particular, the realm of education must be left to experts. One must consider if they have enough experience or expertise to address the needs of the students. Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam may have, but most don’t.

We don’t need more colleges turned into political akhadas, we need better teachers to help groom a better generation of students.

We need to either transform the system, or we must do away with examinations

Ashok Ganguly
Former chairman, CBSE

I do agree that there is a lot of hype during the board exams which give rise to a lot of anxiety and stress among students. When the fate of students is being decided by a one-shot three-hour terminal exam, and further studies are decided by a process of elimination based on percentage of marks in board exams, such pressure will always be there.

It is not only academic readiness, but psychological preparation seems to be much bigger. We need to remove these psychological troubles during the board exam period, so that students write the papers with positive energy.

There is a lot of experimentation going on in school education, which has confused our younger generation. The class 10 board exam should be a good mix of both external and internal assessment. But we have done away with CCE, which needs to revived. Let the internal assessment be restricted to 20 per cent, and the other 80 per cent rely on external assessment.

Also our examination system has become a speed test. The focus has to be shifted from ‘what the child can recall’ to ‘what the child can do’. A little bit of flexibility has to be built into our system. Besides giving 15 minutes of time to read the question paper, which was allowed some years ago, can we allow some extra time (say, 30 minutes) after three hours to those students who could not complete the papers because of paucity of time? What I am saying is that we need to remove the three ‘R’s from our exams system — restriction, regulation, and regimentation.

We need to create an atmosphere of composure during exams period, because for us, every child is important. But we are all happy doing the repetitive exercises year after year and do not want to come out of our cocoons.

I do not know when the time will come to think about examination reform in India. We need to either transform the system, or we must do away with examinations.

The exam isn’t the culprit. It’s a problem to expect everyone to be on the same level

Uma Shankar Venkatesh
Professor at Great Lakes Institute of Management

If we look at India in its entirety, it has multiple boards. Every state has a separate board; there are multiple national level boards, and forms of alternative education like madrasas. The multiple boards are a manifestation of variability and diversity in a country like India.

Talking about the an exam like the CBSE boards of class 12 is like talking about the end of the process. The exam is summative in nature. To not consider modifying the formative years before it will mean considering a partial reform of the education sector. The education sector is a Pandora’s box fraught with many problems and challenges.

Addressing only the issue of board exams, one must consider whether they offer equal opportunities to all. How does one ensure that five CBSE schools across Allahabad, for example, will provide the same level of education? Granted, the syllabus and the question paper are standardised, but what about delivery? What about methods of teaching and number of teachers per student? The problem becomes even more complex if we factor in schools across states.

There are CBSE schools in district headquarters where teachers teach English in Hindi. Ultimately, the exam isn’t the culprit. It’s a problem to expect everyone to be on the same level because the syllabus is similar and the question paper is the same.

Moreover, scoring 65 per cent in the UP board exams is considered a great achievement, whereas 97 per cent in CBSE doesn’t ensure a seat in Delhi University. The problem is that the 65 percenter from UP cannot even begin to imagine competing with the 97 percenter from CBSE. Such statistics question the entire premise of gradation.

Entrance tests often help lessen the burden of board exams. India can benefit from an SAT-style exam system that can be held multiple times every year. But in a federal system like India, such a thing is easier said than done.

What one needs to do is review the entire supply chain of education, the preceding and succeeding stages that impact board examinations. 

Compiled by Deeksha Bhardwaj


  1. Nope…because indian parents think the board exams is the best thin under the sun… middle class parents will revolt…certainly BJP wont do it.

  2. Please don’t quote misleading religious comments if you have a zero knowledge of it . I think Aditi is so correct !! No Education can help you !!!


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