CBSE's Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation : comprehensively flawed

In the euphoria among the progressive circles over the passage of the Right to education Bill (RTE), many do not appear to have taken cognizance of or are perhaps oblivious to a more regressive directive of CBSE. This directive of CBSE called CCE expects teachers to be constantly evaluating (you can even call it policing) their students under so many parameters. This I argue is antithetical to any genuine learning and understanding. It once again puts tremendous pressure on school teachers who are more likely to be spending much of their school hours (and post school hours as well) filling in details and churning out data in vast quantities. Teachers will be left with little time to dwell on any subject or topic, to be creative, to experiment and engage in any meaningful dialogue with children. Rather than helping students to be deeper learners, thoughtful and reflective individuals, measures such as CCE  with its emphasis on mere generation of data and numbers,  reduces learning to a superficiality.

CCE (Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation) meant to be implemented in classes IX and X, is actually another pathetic attempt by the so called advocates of the ‘managerial approach’ to education/learning to quantify learning and indeed quantify everything. Now before I’m accused of being a romantic anarchist where I think evaluation in any form is a pointless exercise and is a stigmatic endeavor, I have already written in one of my earlier post (click here) on exam reforms that examinations/tests are not in themselves an issue. Only when we have some form of evaluation the learning process becomes comprehensive and complete. But the question is what kind of assessment do we bring in and towards what end and who decides the form of evaluation. And importantly assessment itself should be predicated on certain quality of teaching/instructions in the class room which makes assessment acceptable for the community of students. The idea of CCE is merely to come up with numbers that is meant more to bandy about the 'greatness', 'uniqueness', 'successes' and 'pass percentages' of schools and to be used by policy makers, government and politicians to suggest that India is fast becoming a 'learned' 'knowledge' society. In lieu of making Class X exams optional, by our suave, glib honorable Minister of Education Kapil Sibal (the toast of the corporate, liberal, global chatterati) we have yet another ill thought of, shallow piece of bureaucratic/managerial directive that far from making or helping a teacher (and students) to be creative, exploratory and experimental reduces them to a mere cog in the school educational wheel. And the latter has increasingly and exclusively come to be seen, assessed and measured through the discursive prism of management/managerial approach.

Under the new directive, in the name of systematizing evaluation process, CBSE has brought in place a whole gamut of evaluation criteria which goes beyond the 'mere' testing of academic proficiency alone and also seeks to evaluate a child's attitude, values and temperament! A whole lot of rubrics/parameters like tests, reports, oral tests, visual tests, interviews, projects etc to be carried out through what is called formative and summative assessments have been put in place for each and every subject and the 101 topics/lessons that constitutes or defines a subject. The logic behind this being that it is far more prudent and justifiable to judge and evaluate a student over a period of time with a series of tests and other means rather than one final exam. The idea is to de-stress students and take away the fear of exams. Never mind if in the process we can make a travesty of learning and reduce the subjects into divisible but 'comprehensible'  units, where the subtleties, complexities and the hard work involved in figuring them out are brushed aside. But in any case these internally evaluated grades are not going to be given much credibility by any schools  for admissions to + 1 because any internally evaluated grades sheet will always be suspect for the objective abilities of teacher are always suspect. Only marks secured from writing a public examination will carry greater credibility. So much for making class X exams optional. 

In effect all these formative and summative assessment translates into notebook thickness of data collection work for teachers. Now what are the implications and repercussions of such a requirement to be fulfilled by teachers in all schools affiliated to CBSE? Evidently such a system of evaluation,  will leave the teachers very little time for anything else. For in this directive the anxiety to evaluate seems to have colonized all other classroom transactions. Even the weightage and marks to be allotted for these parameters are determined by CBSE. Their mantra is standardization and uniformity. Secondly teachers, who as such are removed from any decision making process and are made to feel utterly powerless in every sense of the term, are further going to feel alienated with such schemes of evaluation which gives no scope for individuality or autonomy. In all this the message that is been given to a teacher is: “You are not trustworthy”. Thirdly is the politics and philosophy of this directive. What to me is more pertinent here is where is CBSE (like everyone else these days) getting such ideas from and what are the ramifications of such ideas and thinking. Processes like CCE's are also in place in many a western countries. It is the belief of many that the west (and now perhaps the far east as well) with its markets, industrial and technological might, achieved all these and more not simply because of education but more due to the managerial approach to education. In India, where we are yet to get over our post-colonial inferiority and where the gloss, glare and glitz of a Tokyo, a Shanghai or a New York spur our imagination and fantasies, with whom we have to 'catch up', such 'reforms' therefore in domains of school education along with entry of foreign universities are seen to be critical and vital. After all we need a labour force which intrinsically and unquestioningly accepts the logic of the market. As such this perspective carries with it so much of legitimacy, it is so 'commonsensical' that any attempt to critique it would invite the criticism of being perverse and perverted.

I nevertheless seek to critique the above and to further bolster my view, I would bring to one's attention this brief but brilliantly argued article in a recent issue of EPW (VOL 45 No. 18 May 01 - May 07, 2010) where the authors critique the gyanshala model - a model which seeks to univerzalise education in india through the much bandied PPP model- (click here to learn more on gyanshala). This has been applauded and welcomed by a large section of scholars and media. Coming to the implications and premise of the CCE, as the authors argue in context of the Gyanshala approach - “measurable student achievement became a key marker to define education and educational outcomes to plan, predict, measure and compare the role of education in enhancing the economic growth of different national economies. Deeper engagement in education for creating new types of citizens, for justice and equality, and education as a human right are deemed economically irrelevant, and thus unimportant to policymakers". Similar to what the authors - Sadhna Saxena and Manish Jain argue - I contend that this CCE diktat from CBSE has similar ramification that affronts the teaching community and reduces them to mere receptacles of guidelines, directions, framework etc. Basing their arguments on educational thinker Michael Apple,  the authors argue - "...the doctrine of efficiency view teachers as merely rent-seeking agents. With a large unemployed labour, teachers are seen as an easily available human resource, a replaceable cog, as one input among many whose purpose is defined with reference “to quantifiable outputs, namely, the learning achievement of students” leading to greater workplace productivity. The management model of education adopted by Gyanshala treats teachers as workers in the education assembly line, who perform the teaching/learning tasks decided by the management. In it, the teacher lacks any training and agency to deliberate on the curriculum, to conceive, plan and design teaching and learning strategies for specific groups and individuals. The curriculum supervisors break the “complex jobs into specified actions with specified results”. The “management controls both pace of work and skill” of teachers to attain specified learning goals set for students."

So in effect such CCE measures, among the many more regulations in place and also apart from the whims and fancies that private school teachers are subject to by school managements, are an insult to the dignity and self-respect of teachers where they are sought to be emptied of their agency and subjectivities. That many a school teachers are inept, take their work lackadaisically, etc maybe true but one has to seek the reasons for it, reasons which are complex, rooted largely in historical and sociological factors.

As I have been repeatedly arguing here on my site, learning is a fuzzy and slow process. And teaching essentially is an art where each teacher evolves and devises unique pedagogical methods which can and does serve larger social requirements and functions but it is essentially an uniquely individualistic enterprise. The CBSE needs to be looking at means for broad basing learning by ensuring that schools cater to the individualistic nature of learning of each child. Towards that, allow teachers to explore, experiment and importantly trust the community of teachers as people who are capable of self-reflection, restraint, innovativeness  and who can evolve a suitable form of assessment and give incentives for teachers to be so. But instead CBSE puts in place CCE. All these are carried in the name of greater accountability, fairness, professionalism and efficiency. My take is this will actually be counter-productive and only wean more and more well meaning, capable and motivated people from teaching profession. (here guess I can include myself who quit teaching in disgust or at least have taken a temporary break from teaching). Even the students will end of feeling being constantly judged for each and everything that happens in the class and school. In light of the above, guess CBSE should be rechristened as Central Board of Secondary Examinations!!!

In the above context I dread the implications of the RTE. If such management approach is going to inform all the policies related to schooling, teaching and teachers are to be damned to levels unimaginable and perhaps irreparable.
PS - Given the IT frenzy that has caught the fancy, imagination, dreams (and whatever that exists of us)  of many in India,  this CCE appears all set to be a godsend for many in IT industry. Just discovered some small time venture from Dehradun, of all the places,  who already have a software solution in place to resolve this dilemma for teachers. ( Check their site out here).  Bet more of the established players in Bangalore are already booking their deals. In this teachers have basically to enter data into slots for all the different parameters, criterias, checklists, forms etc and presto! their job load gets reduced by 90% as this site claims!! Talk about the entrepreneurial spirit in India never to miss an marketing opportunity anywhere and the innovativeness of IT honchos to monetize this 'daring' 'bold' venture of CBSE. Can already see the stocks of Educomps, Edurites and Edus...whatever, rising!!