Dubai: Indian schools in the UAE offering the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) curriculum will conduct board exams twice year, like the rest of the CBSE schools across the globe, from next year (2024), according to new guidelines.
This follows a recent announcement made by the Indian Ministry of Education in accordance with the recommendations of India’s National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, aimed at reducing pressure on students and providing them with a chance to improve their performance by retaining the highest scores of the two exams.
With the UAE home to over 80 schools that offer the CBSE curriculum, Gulf News spoke to some school managements to find out what the new system entailed, how it will be implemented once they get the go ahead and what it will mean for students and the schools themselves.
According to Dr Anjuli Murthy, Principal/CEO, GEMS Our Own High School, Al Warqa’a, “Under the new system, the board exams will be offered on at least two occasions in any given school year, with only the best score retained. However, the end goal is to make subject-wise board examinations immediately available after the school term."
Under the new system, the board exams will be offered on at least two occasions in any given school year, with only the best score retained.
She said, "Implementation will be from the 2024-25 academic year onwards, in a phased manner. More clarity will be given by CBSE in consultation with CBSE schools.”
Punit MK Vasu, CEO, The Indian High Group of Schools, said: “The introduction of bi-annual board exams with the option to retain the best score provides students with a fairer opportunity to showcase their understanding and skills. It will also improve wellbeing and reduce stress levels. The overall shift from rote memorisation to competency-based assessment will undoubtedly foster a deeper understanding of subjects.”
The changes, along with the commitment to optimise textbook costs, mark a significant step towards a more student-centric, comprehensive educational framework underpinned by positive educational reforms
He said the flexibility in subject choice and the focus on ‘on demand’ exams reflect an approach that encourages learners to make informed choices and be an integral part of the deciding the course of their own future. “These changes, along with the commitment to optimise textbook costs, mark a significant step towards a more student-centric, comprehensive educational framework underpinned by positive educational reforms,” he noted.
Vandana Marwah, Principal, Delhi Private School, Sharjah, said, “Any step taken to reduce pressure on the students is welcome. From what I understand, a student can take all exams in one go or split them over the two schedules, with the final mark sheet carrying only the best scores.”
She said there needs to be greater clarity on the two-language-stipulation in Classes 11 and 12, which must include one Indian language.
For CBSE students in foreign countries like the UAE, this could mean bringing another language in Classes 11 and 12, hence there is a lot of discussion going on about this.
“For CBSE students in foreign countries like the UAE, this could mean bringing another language in Classes 11 and 12, hence there is a lot of discussion going on about this,” she said.
As Dr Murthy explained, “Currently, for Grades 11 and 12, only one language is mandatory. Drawing from the National Education Policy 2020, which has prioritised education in Indian languages, a student will now study two languages, at least one of which is native to India.
In the UAE, Indian students study Arabic until Grade 9 or 10. In Grades 11 and 12, Arabic is optional, in line with UAE guidelines. Therefore, yes, students may need to study another language (Indian) in Grades 11 and 12. This will be a challenge for students who opt for a non-Indian language until Grade 10.”
She said, “Now, students study English and one language up to Grade 10. This can be a non-Indian Language. In Grades 11 and 12, students study English and four optional subjects, which may or may not include a language. So, a mandatory Indian language will not mean an additional language in Grade 10, as most Indian curriculum schools are already offering it in Grade 10. Having said that, some schools may have to look at their provision if they offer a non-Indian language such as French or German, which some students opt for.”
She said apart from the two languages, students will choose four subjects from at least two of the three groups. The groups are classified as “Group 2: Art Education, Physical Education and Well-being, Vocational Education”, “Group 3: Social Science and Humanities, Interdisciplinary Areas”, and “Group 4: Science, Mathematics and Computational Thinking”.
“CBSE will shed more light on the above and consult with schools both in India and outside India to understand their perspectives,” she added.
According to her, schools will be able to offer more courses and students will have a greater opportunity to pursue their subject of choice “without the pressure of the Science/Medical/Commerce/Humanities stream”. These changes will help students have a wider perspective by studying a combination of sciences and humanities, providing a stronger foundation for higher education.
Impact on higher education
There are mixed views on how the new system will impact higher education.
Keshav Maheshwari, Managing Director of Allen Overseas, which support students for competitive exams such as NEET and JEE for higher education, said the division of CBSE exams into two parts introduces a notable change.
This adjustment presents both challenges and opportunities for students. The need to excel in two separate exams demands effective time management and strategic preparation.
According to him, “This adjustment presents both challenges and opportunities for students. On one hand, the separation allows for focused learning and a deeper grasp of subjects, which can enhance overall understanding and critical thinking skills – essential assets for higher education and beyond. However, it’s also important to acknowledge the intensified pressure that this transition may bring. The need to excel in two separate exams demands effective time management and strategic preparation.”
He said the influence on NEET and JEE preparation should also be considered. While the adjusted exam structure may slightly alter study priorities, he said it is important to empower students with comprehensive resources, rigorous practice and personalised mentorship, ensuring their readiness to excel in all aspects of their academic journey.
Timing of the two exams
On the timing of the board exams, Vasu said the framework doesn’t specify when the board exams will be slated in an academic year. “It doesn’t clarify whether both the exams will be mandatory for all students, when will it be implemented, and how the syllabus will be divided, if at all.”
He recalled the experience during the pandemic when two board exams were held split across two semesters and the higher score of the two retained. “During this time, syllabus was divided. However, only 25 per cent of the syllabus of semester 1 was tested in the next semester. We felt that performance in the second semester board examinations was perhaps better than the board exams in the first semester. We are awaiting clarity on whether it is mandatory for students to write two board exams especially if they perform extremely well in the first board exam,” he added.
Marwah also pointed to the logistical challenges that the two-board exam schedule could throw up.
“For schools like ours which is an exam centre, it can be quite a challenge. One set of board exams currently span over a month and a half, so to have to conduct the exams twice would require a lot of adjustments. But the intention of the new guidelines is very good, and I am sure the logistics will be eventually worked out.”