Home » Cover Story, July 2011

Coping with CCE

1 July 2011 3 Comments

Sangeeta Menon

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I must confess that when I first heard of the Hon. Minister, Kapil Sibal’s, bold initiative to make the Class X Board examination optional and introduce a new system of evaluation to replace it, I broke out in applause. “Finally,” I thought, “We’re going to see some much-needed, refreshing change.” Having taught in an ICSE school, I couldn’t help ruing the status quo in the schools affiliated to the ICSE Board, while all the exciting action was happening in the CBSE schools.

What then is the CCE? “The CCE or Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation Scheme refers to a school-based evaluation of students that covers all aspects of a student’s development. Continuous means regular assessment, frequency of unit testing, analysis of learning gaps, applying corrective measures, retesting and giving feedback to teachers and students for their self-evaluation, etc. Comprehensive, on the other hand, attempts to cover both the scholastic and the co-scholastic aspects of a student’s growth and development – with both these aspects of the evaluation process being assessed through Formative and Summative Assessments.”

Mr Kapil Sibal had asserted that, “The CCE will cover all aspects of students’ development,” and his Ministry averred that it will, in effect, rid the system of the stressful annual examination tradition and ‘produce learners with greater skills.’ In his opening remarks at the conference of State Education Ministers held on 18 June 2010, at New Delhi, Mr Kapil Sibal spoke of how the new grading system had “reduced unhealthy comparisons with other students.” He further stated, “The initial results of the reform appear quite encouraging. The students and parents find CCE less stressful. [The] grading system has yielded better overall results, probably because students do better under less stressful situations.” Contrary to what Mr Sibal claimed, there seemed to be criticism that “the stress on students is increasing…” There were too many tests, assignments, projects, homework, and review tests being taken. Also, the microscopic examination of student behaviour as part of the assessment was making students behave artificially.

Looking at it from the teachers’ perspective, the CCE expected teachers to assess students on a continuous basis in a cyclic manner. They were supposed to “integrate assessment with teaching and learning, balancing the scholastic areas with the co-scholastic areas.” Their task now was to encourage and motivate students to be positive in their attitude. They would have to appraise the students objectively without bias and would also be required to interact continuously with parents regarding the students and the progress in their performance. To me this seemed quite the ideal role-prescription of a teacher.

Teachers were to “put in more work in the new paradigm by way of preparing their lesson plans, designing formative activities and evolving additional teacher-learning materials.” However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the CBSE had provided support and assistance with an extensive Teachers’ Manual on Formative Assessment, which contained the details of the CCE scheme and practical ways to “operationalize” the same by the teachers in their respective schools. Further, the Board has ostensibly trained 110 master trainers who, in turn, will train the principals and teachers of other schools. There was a toll-free helpline available for the teachers who could also reach out to the chairman on the implementation of CCE through CBSE’s website, www.cbse.nic.in. The CBSE’s explanation of what formative assessment involved underlined its child-friendly approach. Due emphasis has been given to multiple intelligences in children and making the teaching-learning process enjoyable. In principle, the CCE appeared to be perfectly aligned to and in harmony with a child-centred vision.

My meeting with the vice-principal of a reputed CBSE school in Chennai turned out to be a very insightful session. Being in charge of the CCE programme in her school, Ms Shobha Raman gave me a “bird’s-eye view” of how the school had adapted to the new dispensation. She began by first acknowledging the benefits of CCE as a process that had leveled opportunities for the children, giving every child a fair chance. While earlier a child’s performance was entirely assessed on the basis of pen and paper tests or the exams, now a child who was unable to perform well in these written tests was “also given a chance to excel.” The pressure brought on by examinations had, no doubt, been lifted from the children but a different kind of pressure had taken its place, especially for the teachers and school management due to confusion related to the formative assessments and how to fill in the various columns. She also contended that since the CBSE had made CCE a very transparent process on their website, parents had become increasingly aware and watchful of the grading procedure and had begun questioning the teachers and the school on the grades awarded to their children. This put additional and unnecessary pressure on the teachers.

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What was really burdensome for the teachers was the compilation of data and the documentation involved. “The documentation is too exhaustive,” Ms Raman said. “The report card entries have become too much work and too time consuming.” There are always short-cuts that can be resorted to by computerizing these entries with standard comments that can be used repeatedly, but her school preferred to avoid this as the “personal touch would be missing” and the purpose of CCE defeated. Another area that she identified as a “problem area” was the VOE, which she laughingly exclaimed had become her “tale of ‘WOE’”. VOE or Verification of Evidence by the Board required collecting and keeping documents, test papers, models et al of all the work that the students have done in all the subjects. It was essential to maintain portfolios of all the students. The storage capacity that the school had to have was, thus, immense. Everything had to be preserved for a whole year and sometimes even for two years. Her school was definitely facing a space constraint, she said, pointing out with chagrin the cardboard cartons filled to the brim with assessment papers, lying on the floor and occupying every available space in her office.

Ms Raman excused herself to go to a class and I walked back to my vehicle reflecting on what I had learned about the CCE from her. Teachers were having to adjust to a whole new way of doing things. Co-ordination amongst teachers while they collectively assessed the progress and performance of each student was a “major task”. An important point that emerged from the discussion was how the CCE had challenged old concepts and initiated a change in the mindset of the educators. Ms Raman had talked of how teachers had been conditioned to conduct and appreciate performance evaluation only through pen and paper tests. They were now being asked to set aside their heavy dependency on this mode alone and open themselves out to a range of multiple parameters by which to arrive at an understanding of each student’s progress.

As I entered the campus of yet another old and prestigious CBSE school in Chennai, with Ms Raman’s inputs fresh in my mind, I wondered what the experience of the teachers here with the CCE had been. When I broached the subject of CCE, I was taken aback by their instantaneous indictment of the programme.

The biggest challenge the teachers were confronting was the attitudinal change in the children towards their studies. “There is little effort from the students, they declared. “Children are not learning as there are no examinations.” They have “stopped studying,” I was told definitively. Even the Summative Assessments are not taken seriously as “they are sure of being promoted.” The children are taking advantage as they know that the teachers have to award them minimum marks (5/10) regardless of how they fare in their assessment. The social sciences teacher expressed her regret that the students who prior to the introduction of CCE and its grading system had studied hard and secured excellent marks, were now thoroughly demotivated as the grades did not give them an edge.

The only redeeming feature of the CCE, they believed, was that there were no failures now. It is also “benefitting slow learners”. No sooner had I made a note of this, than the math teacher came over and showed me her register. Pages of data, marks and grades, had been painstakingly entered against the names of each student. She said it was gruelling work and they never had enough time to complete it in school. So work, perforce, had to be carried home. She recounted how she would wake up in the wee hours of the morning to finish the calculations of marks and entering them as there was always some deadline or the other to meet. “It’s really affecting [my] family life,” she ended despairingly.

I came away from this school realizing that all the teachers without exception had seemed very much in favour of the Board examination as the one way to get the students to work hard. Getting high marks and the competitive spirit were considered inviolable and sacrosanct in ensuring a relatively good “standard of education” and preparing the students for the tough task of taking the competitive exams later. In their minds, the CCE had indubitably disrupted this process.

I reached out to one of my teacher friends in Hyderabad who taught classes 9 and 10 in a much sought after CBSE school in the city. She concurred that the teachers are indeed “stressed out” as CCE adds to their usual work load. When I asked her about resistance to the new method from the teachers, she admitted candidly that, “nobody had really enjoyed” it; that they all had “reservations about the way things were being done”; that an enormous amount of thinking had to go in to designing activities for the class. They not only had to provide variety, but also cater to the different levels of competency in each class. But then, she also presented a balanced view of the evaluation process. “It is student friendly and reflects those scholastic assessments in which the student has performed to his optimum… Co-scholastic areas such as life skills, attitudes, values, co-curricular assessments, and health and physical education are considered and evaluated to provide feedback of the wholesome growth and development of the student.” This said, she felt it was necessary to reflect upon the “accuracy and objectivity with which these assessments are done as they have replaced the very objective, one time Class X Board Examination.” She also expressed her doubts as to the effectiveness of these evaluations, particularly in the co-scholastic areas. It was no mean task for a teacher in an Indian classroom to perform these evaluations when they had perhaps more than 30 students per class. Her final verdict on the CCE corroborated my own understanding of the core issue. “The success of CCE depends on the way it is implemented… as also on the availability of a vigilant and dedicated faculty who is committed to the cause of education and well-equipped to make the required assessments.”

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As any policy, I suppose, it is one thing to formulate it on paper with all its benefits beautifully enumerated and quite another to actually implement it successfully, keeping to the spirit and letter of the original formulation. The CCE holds abundant promise in propagating a more child-centric approach to learning and assessing progress. However, its merit can justly be appreciated and made visible only in small classrooms or schools, where the sheer numbers of students to be evaluated do not overwhelm the teachers. Moreover, one wonders if the transition from the old to the new was too sweeping and immediate to allow teachers with a different sensibility to adjust to the legitimacy and validity of such an approach. It might have helped if the teachers in the various CBSE schools had been invited to attend a series of workshops focusing on the CCE over a period of time, wherein its positive aspects were highlighted. The workshops could also have addressed the concerns of the teachers. Rather than antagonizing the teachers and forcing them to adhere to the new evaluation system, they should have been inspired to adopt it by convincing them of its efficacy in nurturing students to become truly open-minded, explorative learners and not marks-obsessed, textbook-limited, “nerds”. At the end of the day, it is these very teachers who are needed to make the CCE genuinely work, these very teachers who can produce the desirable results or mar them, depending on their commitment to the process and their belief in it.

Given the new layer of complexity that CCE has introduced into a teacher’s work, a parallel industry appears to be emerging, just to “assist” with this process! Creating reports with the many parameters that the CCE has brought in has left many teachers floundering. Entering copious data on the computer for each student in a particular format involves a certain degree of proficiency that could be stressful and enormously time consuming. Some schools have chosen to engage external agencies which have developed software to enable the process of report generation as per the CBSE guidelines. One particular CCE mentor referred to these agencies as opportunists who must not be entertained. The purpose of preparing reports for each student is lost if certain standard comments are used without discrimination. The CBSE has provided certain “indicators” that can be used as comments if the student’s performance is in line with those comments. If not, the teacher must write one that is applicable to the concerned student. While the CBSE has come up with a software for the creation of reports, it is “complicated”, claims a teacher in a city school. Her school has developed its own in house software to facilitate its teachers. They now carry pen drives with them where they have saved the excel sheets into which they enter their data.

One year down the road, it seems that CBSE teachers have moved from the chaotic and laborious detailing that they were initially faced with, to a more organized and less confused structuring of work in the second year. While they haven’t totally accepted the change, they are learning to cope with it. It will be interesting to see how the CCE evolves in the future. Will it establish its undeniable value, not just externally, as a practice in the schools, but internally, in the minds of its practitioners and facilitators?

The author has been a high school English teacher and is someone who is passionately involved in the process of education in the country. She can be reached at sangmenon@yahoo.com.

3 Comments »

  • Parth Kohli said:

    Being a student, I think that CCE is not fair to students either. I really don’t like the extra Yoga classes that I’m not proficient in. I think that the extra-curricular activities should have options.

  • Ameen said:

    The main problem of this system is that its increasing our schoolload burden. In middle of normal class tests, daily questioning of teachers & unit tests, the assignments and homeworks possess a greater burden and tough school life. One must remember that we are given these extra activities along with the same amount of bulk portion followed in our previous system. A regular well studying student will want to gain good marks in both fa and sa . So on what basis does it decrease our burden. Keeping exams after vacation is also very exhausting. One is filled with regrets,guilt and fear throughout the vacation. Children also tend to lose connection with the flow of studying during holidays and keeping exams after it is not proper thinking . What do they expect us to do ? keep studying during vacations? then what is the meaning of having a vacation? They are also increasing our burden by including long- reading texts in english for ten marks ….What is the big problem of this system? Now since we have xams after vacation, teachers give us a lot of holiday assignments to make sure we study. I hate this system . I am writing this out of pure agony. I feeling so scared now. I m in ninth grade and in this big class its not advisable to burden us like this…Oh only if someone could do something

  • Joseph James said:

    A well balanced summing up of CCE. Wish you had also contacted the CBSE personnel and presented their views on CCE. As you rightly observe, CCE is a step in the right direction, but its efficacy will depend on the way it evolves in future. Teachers do face several problems in implementing CCE in letter and spirit.
    To begin with, the teachers were not properly trained. CBSE didn’t simply have enough trainers to train all the teachers. What they did was to impart a one-day training to selected teachers from as many as schools as they could. The one-day training had little effect on the teachers. They were expected to go back and train other teachers in their school. This wasn’t possible as they themselves weren’t sure what CCE was all about.
    The execution of CCE by CBSE leaves much to be desired. CBSE has opened a new website for academics It is through this site that they keep informing about the new changes. Even the CCE manual you talk about is put on this site. Many schools don’t bother to look up this site or communicate the changes to the teachers on time. 90% of the teachers haven’t read the CCE manual and CBSE has come out with at least three editions differeing significantly from each other. CBSE’s communication channel works only in one direction. There is no way to contact any of their experts. Trying to contact them through the helpline is a frustrating experience. Putting queries in thei website is also an exercise in futility as they seldom answer them.
    Not a single CBSE person has visited the schools in our locality in the last couple of years to see if the implementation is carried out in the right direction. The mentor system is a flop. Evidence of Assessment is the weapon CBSE wields to ensure compliance. They are well aware that the school can hoodwink them easily. As you have mentioned, most schools have no space to keep the evidence, which can be anything from models to charts to powerpoint programmes. Classifiying them and labelling them and writing a report for each is a cumbersome process and consumes most of the precious time of the teacher. And much of the evidence is of no use at all. For example, one of the typical assessments for Hindi is to do a write up on well-known writers. The teacher supplies a list of writers and the students dutifully copy their CV from the net. The students do not have pay any attention to what they are copying as the teachers only insist on neat presesntation. Since the teachers know that they are copied from the net they blindly award A1 grades to all and bundle them up and deposit them in a cardboad carton to be duly despatched to CBSE on demand. I am pretty sure that this bundle would never be opened by anybody and an overworked clerk at the CBSe regional office would merely put a tick mark in his checklist! And that’s CCE in practice for you.
    CCE has become a meaningless ritual in several schools. As you have mentioned, the writing of Descriptive Indicators is a case in point. Initially CBSE merely asked the teachers to award grades on a 3-point or 5-point scale (nobody ever knew why some areas had a three point scale and some a five-point scale) After a while it dawned on CBSE that teachers would artbitrarily grade the students. So, they introduced the concept of Descriptive Indicators to supplement the grades. A list of sample grades was also thoughtfully provided. Teachers were supposed to observe the students, write the indicators and then award the grades. CBSE had no clue to the practical problems this posed to the schools. Many teachers like the Hindi teachers were simply incapable of writing the indicators in English and wanted to know how many indicators would be required for each of the grades. The principals then got into the act. They told them that a minimum of 5 indicators was needed to secure an A1 on the five-point scale and the number of indicators would proportionately come down for the lower grades. Some teachers were then asked to prepare a set of standard indicators for each grade under each area. The task now became very easy. All that a teacher had to do was to award the grade first and write down the corresponding indicators. The schools that used computers to maintain records didn’t even have to write down the indicators. This practice was ratified by CBSE itself. In the 2010 Board examinations, teachers teaching in class X were asked to upload the indicators and the grades to CBSE website. The Board found so many errors in them that they finally decided to prepare standard sets of INDICATORS for the whole country! So, a child getting an A grade, say, in his attitude towards the school activities would have the same set of indicators all across the country. This is just one example to illustrate how the spirit of CCE is being ignored by all concerned.

    The changes come thick and fast and the hapless teachers simply do not have the resources to keep pace with them. To cite another example, for the last two years, CBSE has been on an overdrive to promote the reading habit among the students. They began with simple exhortations to the teachers. when they found that they fell on deaf years They sent a circular that the students could be awarded 10 marks in the Formative Assessment if they have read at least two books. Of course, it had to be backed by evidence. Simple enough, all that the student had to do was to copy the matter on the blurb or download a review from the net. Or better still, watch the movie based on the book and write down a few lines. The Board must have got wise to this. This year after the session had begun, they prescribed two books each for classes IX to XII. The unabridged versions of these books had to be read. The books prescribed for Class IX were the original versions of Gulliver’s Travels and Three Men in a Boat. (The titles are of course a dead giveaway about the composition of the selection team) God alone knows the kind of student the Board had in mind when they came up with these books. No student outside the metros would be able to read these books in the original and understand what they wanted to convey! This was a unilateral decision by the Board without taking the teachers into confidence. Anyway this was a godsend for the publishers of New Delhi who had to suffer heavy losses because of CCE. They wasted no time in publishing ‘unabridged’ versions of these titles. Of course, t he ‘unabridged’ section was followed by summaries in both Hindi and English and sample questions and answers. These books sold like hot cakes. They were thoughtful enought to provide complimentary copies to the teachers, so that they could supply the summaries to students who couldn’t afford to buy them. I could go on multiplying these examples. But why belabour the point? I do not, of course, question the need for change. Nor do I doubt the efficacy of CCE if implemented properly.

    The real question is if CBSE has the manpower, the will power and the resources to implement CCE in letter and spirit. Seeing the way it’s being implemented, it’s hard not to be cynical!

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