Two-level mathematics question paper for upcoming Class X CBSE exam

Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) examinations for class X will commence from February 15 and finish by March 20.  What is special about this year’s CBSE exam for class X is the introduction of two-level mathematics question paper—Basic and Standard. The paper is scheduled on March 12.

CBSE, country’s national school  administered by MHRD having over 22145 schools affiliated to it,  had in a January 2019 circular notified about this change in Mathematics  examination pattern and as such nearly  six lakh  students have opted for Basic Mathematics and another estimated 13 lakh for standard Mathematics question paper.

The difference between the two question papers is only in difficulty level. According to Arati Bhatia, a mathematics teacher at Ahlcon International School, Delhi, the syllabus and marks scheme for both the question papers is same, the only difference is in setting the difficulty level of questions and those writing Basic Mathematics may be asked simple questions. “As in my view there is a linkage in various chapters, the whole syllabus will be covered in Basic as well,” she adds. As per CBSE the Standard-Level Mathematics assesses higher Mathematical abilities compared to Basic-Level. Accordingly, the difficulty level of the Mathematics – ‘Basic’ is less than that of Mathematics-‘Standard’.

However, experts and mathematicians aren’t convinced about board’s reform. They call it sheer stupidity and lack of due diligence as same syllabus, same classroom, same textbooks and same teachers hardly sets the difference apart as far as students are concerned. “While this a welcome change and even as an international practice, but the way it has been done has only added to the confusion for the students. If they wanted to make it less difficult, they should have omitted certain chapters and told students to prepare accordingly. The student has to prepare entire syllabus. So in a sense it won’t achieve the objectives for which it is being done. In my view, the change has to happen in class IX itself and those wanting to take Basic Maths need to be taught separately on separate textbooks. The mathematics a child learns till class VIII is enough for his or her use in later life and if applied mathematics is introduced in class IX as a reinforcement of earlier learning, I am sure many students will get attracted to Mathematics and even later switch over to Standard version,” says A T B Bose, Secretary of Ramanujan Museum and Maths education center, Chennai and author of several Mathematics textbooks, while adding that marks system has blunted brains of children and exploration about maths has got killed as result.

The change in pattern of examination has been an outcome of changed central RTE rules.  These rules were amended in February, 2017 to include reference on class-wise, subject-wise Learning Outcomes and for the first time in November, 2017 National Achievement Surveys (NAS) was conducted for classes III, V and VIII to assess the learning outcomes of students in government and government aided schools on all subjects. In fact, the CBSE, is preparing for more radical changes in coming years and by 2024, the examination pattern will look completely different from what it is now. While speaking at ‘FICCI ARISE Conference 2019’ on Dec 10 in Delhi, Anita Karwal, Chairman, CBSE, said that it has become amply clear that examination pattern determines the quality of school education and the whole system revolves around securing maximum from this pattern and this has raised concern both in terms of learning that is happening and stress on children.  “By 2024, textbooks will become completely irrelevant for exams and we are all set to start changes in the pattern from 2020 itself.  What is taught in classrooms will be reduced to core concepts and then the threatening pattern will get replaced by assessment of attainment of learning.  We have started on learning outcomes approach for the first time and people have started to develop understanding about it,” she added.

The new education policy formulation and draft, which have attracted a lot of attention offers a window of opportunity for undoing fundamental flaws in school education particularly exams in the final policy. For Mathematics, the country needs to do a lot of rethink as its legacy is a national heritage and it is 100 years since Ramanujan.