48.

The dual role of being a practicing teacher of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), while simultaneously being a trainee-teacher of International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, has forced me to disengage from a comfortable, almost predictable, routine that had steadily and surely crept into my professional life. Beginning from the first class of Introduction to Education paper, to a recently concluded, extensive three-day workshop, I am able to appreciate the obvious and subtle differences between the two curricula – the philosophy of teaching and learning, how the subject matter is taught to the students and what are the expected outcomes at the end of the course as it progresses through the ages of 14 to 18.

At the outset, I would like to note that a fundamental difference between CBSE and IB programme is the ultimate goal – the former aims to educate the massive and diverse population of India through which it aims to encourage humanism[1], whereas the IB programme aims to foster cooperation and understanding of global cultures through education.[2] While reading the texts for the first time, I thought that the aims are the same – after all, India’s diversity in culture is comparable to a global community. However, upon reviewing the material provided once again, and by paying closer attention to the language used in these seminal documents, I realized that there is a difference in the aims of the curricula, which has determinedly influenced the manner in which education is provided in the classroom.

Firstly, in CBSE a student at the age of 14 enters Class 9, which marks the start of ‘high school’. The title itself gives the student a sense of ‘growing up’ – a child is now expected to be more like an adult, be responsible and accountable for his/her own progress, with reduced help from the teacher[3]. This, I have found through my experience with students of Class 9, can be overwhelming for some – until a few months ago they were considered to be children who needed extensive guidance. This expectation is now taken to the ‘next level’ so to speak, when the student enters Class 11 at age 161, with a rudimentary understanding and ability of scholastic independence, but tasked with a heavier responsibility of academic rigor. In each of the above cases, the evaluation models and formative assessment patterns do not have a clear, continuous progression into each phase of the student’s scholastic life – which I have observed, affects the some students’ confidence in their abilities as they got older.

On the other hand, the description of a 14-year old in the IB is that of a Middle Year Programme (MYP) student and he/she has been part of the same programme for at least two years[4]. The development of the student in terms of critical thinking is a stable, steady progress with the aim of promoting independence in thought4, through assessments such as ‘Interdisciplinary Project’ and ‘Personal Project’ at the end of the MYP[5]. While reading this description of students in the final years of the MYP I am struck by how, through the structure of the programme itself, the students are trained to develop confidence in themselves to take on more arduous tasks in a progression through the years. I was especially impressed with the confidence and articulation of the students’ responses to interview questions in the introductory video posted on the official website[6]. To my delight, this confidence, articulation and lateral thinking ability (as it appeared to me) is augmented in the IB Diploma Programme (DP), as demonstrated by the  DP students[7], which I find lacking in most of my students as they progress to Classes 11 and 12 in CBSE.

In my professional opinion, the assessment pattern is an important determiner in how the subject matter is conveyed to the student in the classroom. In CBSE, the primary form of assessment is a pen-and-paper test. The tests are expected to follow Bloom’s Taxonomy religiously. It caters to students from different socio-economic backgrounds and provides teachers with an instant profile of student’s academic progress. In addition to this, teachers assign projects, including projects that integrate art with each subject, which encourage lateral thinking[8]. As an educator, I find this method of assessment repetitive, and I find myself instructing students in a way that will help them solve the problem, rather than teaching them methods of application of concept to solve the problem, in an effort to have them score higher marks. In fact, I find that this scheme is reinforced with how the curriculum document is worded – towards the end of the document8 I find that teachers are aided with synonyms to use in lesson plans! This, I realized, is a great example of what is the expected outcome – all possible permutations and combinations of a situation is spoon-fed to stakeholders, thus doing the thinking for them, and reinforcing the idea that there are only a limited number of ways in which a problem can be solved, thus slowing down or stunting independent and critical thinking. With the advent of the National Education Policy, 2020[9] and its revolutionary changes, I hope that this will not be the future of Indian National Education.

Contrary to this method of assessment, the IBMYP and IBDP look beyond the limited insights provided to an IB teacher from a traditional pen-and-paper test and assess the students that enforce students to think through different solutions for a proposed problem themselves. In the final year of the MYP[10] and DP[11], students are mandated to think of a problem that they would like to tackle themselves! The different perspectives encouraged through these mandated assignments, as well as the generalized, open-ended teacher-aids provided, to me, are exemplar of the end result of an IB education – global, critical thinkers who can confidently work in any environment that they need.

All in all, when contrasting the CBSE curriculum continuum with that of the IB programme, there are stark differences – from the aim of the curriculum to the end result of its implementation. These differences can be attributed to the difference in the students that it caters to as well – the IB programme has been associated with students from higher socio-economic standards in India. Nonetheless, I hope that the positive aspects of both curricula are implemented to most, if not all students in this country for, what I truly believe, to be a better future.

REFERENCE

[1] Central Board of Secondary Education. (n.d.). Senior School Curriculum Class XI-XII 2020-21. http://cbseacademic.nic.in/web_material/CurriculumMain21/SrSecondary/Intitial_pages_srsec_2020-21.pdf

[2] International Baccalaureate Organization. 2005-2020. https://ibo.org/about-the-ib/mission/

[3] Central Board of Secondary Education. (n.d.). Senior School Curriculum Class IX-X 2020-21. http://cbseacademic.nic.in/web_material/CurriculumMain21/Main-Secondary/Intitial_pages_sec_2020-21.pdf

[4] International Baccalaureate Organization. 2005-2020. What is the MYP? https://www.ibo.org/programmes/middle-years-programme/what-is-the-myp/

[5] International Baccalaureate Organization. 2005-2020.  Science. https://www.ibo.org/programmes/middle-years-programme/curriculum/science/

[6] International Baccalaureate. 2016, May 13. MYP Practice in India. https://vimeo.com/166519743

[7]  International Baccalaureate. 2015, December 28. DP learners: are global citizens. https://vimeo.com/150160162

[8] Central Board of Secondary Education. (n.d.). Senior School Curriculum Class IX-X 2020-21. http://cbseacademic.nic.in/web_material/CurriculumMain21/revisedsyllabi/Main-Secondary/REVISEDScience_Sec_2020-21.pdf

[9] The Hindu Net Desk. 2020, July 29. New Education Policy| Medium of instruction to be mother tongue of regional language till Class V. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/new-education-policy-cabinet-briefing-live-updates/article32219499.ece

[10] International Baccalaureate Organization. 2005-2020.Assessment from 2016. https://www.ibo.org/programmes/middle-years-programme/assessment-and-exams/assessment-from-2016/

[11] International Baccalaureate Organization. 2005-2020.Assessment and Exams. https://www.ibo.org/programmes/diploma-programme/assessment-and-exams/

47.

As a high school Physics teacher, objectively scored questions are a boon when evaluating a learner’s performance, in a system that values the student based on the marks scored in an examination. I must admit that in my own evaluation process, the system I follow is not as insightful as those prescribed in this course, however, there are some practices that I do follow, and some that I would like to improve upon, under the guidance of the assessment system prescribed by the Central Board of Secondary Education’s (CBSE) curriculum, and my school.

The questions designed for, and implemented in examinations conducted as part of the summative assessment are perhaps the most scrutinized amongst all other forms of assessment. In addition, there is a heavy reliance on questions asked in past public examination papers, or those set by authors of textbooks. The usual practice for most exams is to copy questions from these dated sources as it has been vetted by experts on education, and it also provides a clear rubric on how we, as teachers, can evaluate the student’s understanding of a particular topic.

In my assessment practice, it is easier for me to provide feedback to students through descriptive-type and numerical-type questions. It is also easy for me to explain to the student, and in some cases even the learner’s parent(s), of the mistakes made, and what needs to be done so that the learner does not repeat these once again. In my experience, I have found that the student will, over a period of time be able to reflect on their own performance (for example, working towards understanding a concept, or to work on their time-management skills to complete a test within the given time limit). These goals are similar to what can be achieved through SQ3R, as Dr. Brown described in his second interview[1]. This is because in these types of questions, it is unproblematic to see if the learner lacks understanding in the concept taught, or if there are concerns regarding the child’s ability to calculate mathematical solutions to problems.

However, this straightforward gathering of information is reduced when it comes to assessing the student’s performance in a multiple choice question, or even a binary-choice question. I find that in most cases, the evaluation is of surface understanding (remembering and understanding as per Bloom’s Taxonomy) of the topic or concept taught. It is rare to see a multiple-choice question be analytical without having to reference information that may be beyond what is taught in the classroom. Hence, these types of questions help me to understand if a particular topic is understood, but I am unable to evaluate if the student is able to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the same topic or concept. In the near future, I would like to change this by creating multiple-choice questions that will be more analytical and evaluative in nature[2], and thus make a more informed and meaningful decision.

In conclusion, objectively scored assessment helps me provide precise feedback to students, and also equips them with the tools to be reflective of their own performance in their summative assessments. Primarily, this kind of scoring allows me to understand and reflect on my own teaching methodology for certain topics. My area of improvement will be in the creation and implementation of binary- and multiple-choice type questions, so that I can provide a better answer to myself, my students and the administration of my school to the question “who needs to be taught what next”.


[1] https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-assessment/lecture/H4LS5/interview-two

[2] Kamtet, W., Dechsri, P. & Tuentrakulchai, T. (2011). Proceedings of IAEA ’11: Development of Science Test Items . Manila, Philippines: IAEA.

46.

The dedicated research and studies into different types of assessment, its impact on schools, governing bodies, and communities has quantified something that we all know instinctively – that assessment is not only an invaluable tool in an academic setting, but it does have lasting effect on society and its growth.

I am immersed in an environment where (in numerous cases) school administrators, parents and learners place the value of the student on his or her grades in assessment. Hence, I believe that this places an essential responsibility on me to provide assessments that can accurately evaluate a child’s academic capabilities, without ignoring his or her soft skills.

The first step, for me, is to be thoroughly prepared with the curriculum of the subject, and more importantly, to read and understand the purpose of the curriculum. The Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) in India provides two detailed sets of learning objectives – for the learner as a whole, and subject-specific goals as well[1]. As a new teacher, this acts a great guide for me to communicate the coursework in a classroom setting, as my goals for the year are clear.

The second step is to successfully evaluate myself and my students on the coursework through assessments[2]. Most assessments are pre-determined by the curriculum (Mid-year and end of year examinations) and the school administration issues guidelines to ensure that all teachers adhere to it (a static blueprint of the question paper, for example)[3]. This has its benefits and disadvantages:

The guidelines make my work easier for me, as I do not have to think up of new methods of assessment, and with these tried-and-tested assessment patterns issued to me, I can make safe, informed decisions of my students’ academic performance – both individually and as a class.
However, there are certain, more creative (or rarer), forms of testing that I believe will engage the students positively with the subject content and with themselves, that I cannot implement without certain resistance. Usually, this resistance comes from students as they want to assignments that they are familiar with, so that they can do it without much effort or thought. In rare cases, my seniors are reluctant in giving me their approval to conduct these kinds of assignments due to time constraints, focus on examinations or feasibility in terms of resources.

In my ideal classroom, my assessments will not be a source of stress for students, as the emphasis would not be on the grades earned, but the learning experience. I would like them to evaluate themselves by conducting an error analysis and to be reflective of their own behavior and attitudes while attempting or performing these assessments. In reality, however, the students do not take well to any form of assignment – they do not see it as a source of improvement or reflection on their work, but rather a source of stress. The system is such that too much value is placed on the final marks scored, hence the child, in almost all cases, learns methods to crack the exam[4], rather than focusing on the concept that needs to be studied. I do try to introduce reflective practices, but it is not taken seriously unless it is introduced as part of the rubrics for evaluation.

All in all, I believe that dedicated, well thought out assessments are essential not just as a pre-requisite for the title of a “good school” but to be a source of reflection for all stakeholders involved in education – from the student to the community. Personally, my understanding of assessment and its impact through this course has been two-pronged – many of my personal beliefs were ratified; some, I have been forced to re-evaluate.


[1] Central Board of Secondary Education. (n.d.). Senior School Curriculum Class IX-X 2020-21. http://cbseacademic.nic.in/web_material/CurriculumMain21/Main-Secondary/Intitial_pages_sec_2020-21.pdf

[2] Brown, G. T. (2012). Teachers’ thinking about assessment: Juggling improvement and accountability. Teacher: the International Education Magazine, 6(2), 30-35

[3] Central Board of Secondary Education. (n.d.). Senior School Curriculum Class IX-X 2020-21. http://cbseacademic.nic.in/web_material/CurriculumMain21/revisedsyllabi/Main-Secondary/REVISEDScience_Sec_2020-21.pdf

[4] Kapur, K. (2008). Proceedings from IAEA ’08: Assessment for Improving Learning in Schools in India: A perspective. Cambridge, UK: IAEA.