CBSE: Students get ready for change
Exactly a year ago, India's Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) declared that they are reverting to the traditional board exam system for Grade 10 students with effect from the 2017-18 academic session. Schools immediately began re-evaluating study and internal testing patterns, preparing and almost grilling students for the upcoming final board exams.
However, students, who had spent the last seven years of their lives studying under the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) system, were in a state of confusion. "It was very chaotic when we first found out. I was disappointed and upset," said Reshma Rajesh, a Grade 10 student of Our Own English High School, Sharjah. Students stated that mathematics and social science are among two of the toughest subjects, and are hoping that CBSE's final evaluation process will be lenient.
Psychologists and school counsellors have revealed that reversing the system has resulted in a downward spiral of stress for so many students in the UAE. "In the past year, I have seen about 30 cases of teenagers suffering from school-related stress and performance anxiety. Some were extreme cases where they refused to go to school or showed symptoms of a panic attack while in school," revealed Dr George Kaliaden, psychologist at WeCare Medical Centre, Dubai, and founder of Teenager Dynamic Training Camps.
And like their counterparts in India and other countries with CBSE-affiliated schools, several thousand students studying in 77 schools across the UAE are going to attempt the upcoming exam in March-April.
Dr Ashok Kumar, CEO of Indian High School Dubai, said: "Schools are well-equipped and prepared for the upcoming exam. The impact of the attainment will be measured in Grade 11." A total of 744 students from the Indian High School will be writing the exam. Abraham Manohar, principal for the secondary section at Indian High School, said: "The system equips students to retain more information, which is something CCE did not provide."
School supervisors Swarna Chandrashekhar and Sonia Kohli revealed that the school conducted a series of analytic tests that identified slow learners and provided them with targeted and regular remedial lessons, at the request of parents. "Now that we've completed two analytical tests, we can reveal that the number of students needing remedial sessions has drastically reduced," added Chandrashekhar.
"Admitted that the first batch may find it hard, but from the next academic year, the students will be better prepared for future exams," said Asma Gilani, principal of Our Own English High School, Sharjah.
In many cases, the students stated that social pressure made them increasingly anxious. Niveditha Sreenath (15), a student of GEMS Our Own Indian School, said: "My friends speak about how parents tend to compare them to other students in the family attempting the exam... that is very stressful." However, in some cases, parents have been understanding of student woes because they've experienced studying in a similar manner.
Mini Nair, a parent whose daughter studies at the Abu Dhabi Indian School, said: "As parents, worry for their child is very natural, but there is a very big stigma attached to the board exam in the Indian community. Children tend to believe that their entire life depends on these exams."
Asha Parthasarthy, another homemaker and parent in Dubai, said, "Under the CCE system, students who scored anything from 91-100 in a subject got an A grade. So many students had a 10 Cumulative Grade Points Average (CGPA). Now, it is down to the last decimal, and that has made competition much tighter. If they work hard, they can have a bright future."
Top 5 tips to beat stress
1. Stop punishment/criticism
2. Do not become a control freak
3. Listen, negotiate
4. Explore the power of positive reinforcement
5. Reduce over perfection, help them be relaxed, even as you over-motivate students