Student Dropouts affect CBSE Schools

Many schools following the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) stream of study in Kerala witnessed a unique phenomenon of student dropout this year.

Unlike in the past, many students left the CBSE schools for State stream after their Class X. Many others who continue in the CBSE for higher secondary education are worried about their prospects when it comes to admissions to professional courses.

It was the policies of the State government that landed about 20 per cent CBSE students in State schools for their higher secondary studies.

In some CBSE schools, particularly certain rural schools run by Christian managements, this year’s post-tenth standard dropout rate was more than 20 per cent. And the trend, according to education watchers, is likely to continue for one more year.

Most things the State government did in recent times to strengthen the State’s education system have adversely affected the CBSE system in the State. There was hardly any hue and cry as the CBSE was not the concern of any of the student organisations in the State.

The decision of the State government to introduce 50 per cent weightage for Plus Two results for admission to medical and engineering degree courses from next year sowed the seeds of fear among CBSE students and parents.

The abolition of entrance tests for professional courses such as B.Sc. Nursing, B.Sc. Medical Lab Technology, and B.Sc. Agriculture by the State government too contributed to the rise in the CBSE dropout rate.

The State government has thus given more importance to higher secondary marks even as it continues to follow a liberal evaluation system for SSLC and Plus Two.

A first class in State stream is of little value today as the number of students scoring 80-90 per cent marks has gone up considerably in recent years.

Liberal Evaluation

No doubt the State government has been liberal. But education pundits dispute the government’s argument that the rise in the results was a reflection of the rise in the quality.

But unlike the State stream, the CBSE has not been liberal in giving marks. Scoring marks between 70 and 80 per cent is considered a creditable achievement in CBSE.

And when it comes to admissions to professional courses, the difference in marks between the CBSE and State streams becomes a matter of grave concern.

“I did not want to take a risk at this stage. For me, the future of my boy is more important than any other thing,” said Mini Mol, who took her son to a State school in Thrissur district for Plus One after his Class X in a CBSE school in Malappuram district.

And to add to the woes of parents, the State government closed its Plus One admission allotments more than a week before the CBSE announced its Class X results.

Although the government yielded to the demands of CBSE schools and parents by offering additional Plus One seats to CBSE students, they never got the schools or courses of their choice.

A close examination of the student dropout pattern indicates that top CBSE schools in cities were spared.

Pattern of Dropout

“We did not have a single dropout. That’s the case with many other CBSE schools in the cities,” said T.P.M. Ibrahim Khan, president of the Kerala CBSE Schools Management Association.

But the dropout was evident in rural CBSE schools, where the parents’ concerns could not be easily addressed. “The dropout trend has influenced many parents,” admitted Fr. Tomy K.M., principal of Sacred Heart Senior Secondary School, Kottakkal.

“But parents should be given awareness about the quality of education imparted on CBSE campuses,” Fr. Tomy said.

It was a drastic fall in the number of students joining the State schools in recent years that led to the State government to adopt measures to check the flow of students to the CBSE.

The difference in quality between the State and CBSE systems also caused worries among the managers of education in the State.

While the number of students passing the Class X examination in Kerala is one tenth of the students passing the SSLC examination, the number of CBSE students cracking engineering and medical entrance examinations is much more than their State counterparts.

Perhaps that is why major tuition centres like the one managed by Prof. P.C. Thomas used to prefer CBSE students.

“It’s easy to equip them for the entrance than those from the State stream,” said K.M. Arif, a teacher at a coaching centre in Kozhikode.

According to Mr. Khan, the concept of Kerala’s education system remains oriented towards professional courses. “No one here is interested in education for education’s sake,” he said.

There has been consensus among principals and managers of CBSE schools about the State government’s intentions.

“The government has been trying to stall the growth of CBSE schools in Kerala,” said M. Abdul Nasar, manager of Goodwill English School, Pookkottumpadam, and Malappuram unit vice-president of the Sahodaya School Complex. But he is hopeful that the situation will change when the government changes.

CBSE schools allege that the State government has discriminated them when distributing minority scholarships given by the Central government. “Our students were denied an opportunity to get the scholarships,” said Mr. Nasar.

N. Ramachandran Nair, Malabar regional secretary of the Sahodaya School Complex, said that the State should not discriminate those studying in CBSE stream. “All are our children. And all of us pay tax. And we expect equity and justice,” said Dr. Nair.

According to him, CBSE schools should accommodate more students by increasing seats. Parents and children should be free to take the streams of their choice, he said.

The introduction of Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) system by the CBSE for Class X from this year too has raised concerns among the parents.

The Kerala CBSE Schools’ Management Association and the Sahodaya School Complex have independently begun to address the concerns of the parents.

Both have been giving awareness classes to parents at regular intervals. “The parents of the Class X students think that their children don’t have any examination. But they don’t realise that their children are being evaluated throughout the year,” Mr. Khan said.

“With emphasis on the continuous growth of students ensuring their intellectual, emotional, physical, cultural and social development, the CCE system will help them a lot,” said Mr. Khan.

CCE is a system of school-based evaluation that covers all aspects of students’ development. It lays emphasis on continuity in evaluation as well as assessment of broad based learning.

It is aimed at providing a holistic profile of the learner through evaluation of both scholastic and co-scholastic areas spread over two terms in an academic year.

In effect, the students in schools are introduced to what universities call semesters. CCE-based grading will be done in two terms. In a year, the school will conduct four formative and two summative assessments.

A meeting held at TocH School, Kochi, on Sunday discussed at length the issues faced by the CBSE schools. About 300 schools attended the meeting. E.T. Mohammed Basheer, MP and former Education Minister, alleviated the concerns of the school managers and principals.

Nearly 600 schools in the State are yet to get CBSE affiliation for want of the State government no-objection certificates (NOC). Instead of encouraging CBSE schools, the State has imposed heavier burdens on them by treating them as commercial institutions.

Heavy power bills are imposed on CBSE schools. No building tax exemption is applicable to CBSE schools.

Kerala has the highest number of CBSE schools in the country. Sixty per cent of the 820 schools have higher secondary.

Still, the CBSE does not have a regional office in the State. Attempts to set up a regional office in Kerala were reportedly torpedoed by vested interests.

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