In India, board exams have always been synonymous with stress — for the students, parents, teachers and, sometimes, relatives and neighbours as well. It is shocking how a child’s assessment model becomes the cause of so much pain and undue pressure. With the re-introduction of board examinations for 10th grade, there will only be an increase in the exam frenzy.

But simply discontinuing the board examinations is also a short-sighted solution to this situation. We need to assess why our society values board examination results so dearly. Assessment models in Indian education have been shaped to exclude. Question papers have been turning progressively more difficult and only those who can score highly are allowed to move to the next level of competition. High scores in the 10th grade board examinations get you entry to the much coveted science stream, high scores in the 12th grade board exams get you entry to elite colleges and from then to jobs that the society seems to place at high value. There are some questions that we, as a society, need to seriously consider if we wish to give our children a more supportive environment for growth.

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Is the sole purpose of education is to select minds that can solve the most difficult numerical problems and memorise the most facts, while excluding the rest from accessing education pathways of their choice? Education has been called a truly transformative process, capable of turning children into sensible, and aware young adults capable of critically engaging with their society and environment. But if our assessment system continues to focus on exclusion instead of inclusion, we will be creating an unstable and unequal society. Children whose talents and skills are not suitable for our current system of assessment will continue to find themselves under an unnecessarily large amount of stress and pressure. These ‘excluded’ children may further suffer from self-esteem issues as they are denied access to education that should be their right.

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The next question we need to ask ourselves is how relevant is an assessment system that more often than not tests a student’s ability to memorise his or her textbooks? An annual examination that determines a child’s continued access to education of their choice seems arbitrary at best. But even those students who manage to score well in this exam— how much are they really benefitting? Is our system of assessment encouraging children to think critically, understand their society better, become more responsible and sensitive citizens? Is it leading them to happier and fulfilled lives?

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The terror that board examinations cause to children is truly alarming. It’s killing our future, spreading unrest all over society. Yet the solution is not as simple as doing away with the exam. We need to reshape our entire philosophy of education at large and assessment systems in particular. And we need to do it before more children succumb to the unfair board examination system. #KhabarLive