The announcement by CBSE chairman Ashok Ganguly recently that beginning this year 20 percent of the questions in the board's examinations for Classes X and XII would be based on higher order thinking skills (HOTS) has led to confusion among a section of the students, parents and teachers alike.
The announcement of the new question paper pattern on the eve of the CBSE examinations set to begin on March 1 has in fact startled many. Concerned parents have been calling up school authorities seeking clarifications on the question paper reform.
The school principals, depending on their resourcefulness, have addressed the doubts and concerns of the students and parents. Some have added to the confusion while some others quelled the worries with greater responsibility.
But there is hardly any room for confusion about the new question paper pattern.
The CBSE has been talking about it for months on end, and the chairman's recent announcement at a press meet was a final reminder to those preparing for the secondary and higher secondary examinations.
Mr. Ganguly was unequivocal when he said that 20 per cent of the questions for the Classes X and XII examinations in March would be meant to evaluate the student's abilities to reason and analyse rather than memorize.
The focus of the 20 per cent questions will be to measure the student's abilities to reason, justify, analyse, process and evaluate information in subjects such as physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, political science, history and economics for Class XII, and languages, social science, mathematics and science for the Class X.
Ten per cent of the questions will be of very short answer type. There will be short answer type questions and long answer type questions as well.
The CBSE had announced the introduction of HOTS-based questions much in advance. K. Sadayakumar, principal of M.E.S. Central School, said introduction of questions based on HOTS was nothing new.
Some questions in the previous examinations too were indirect. "They meant to measure the student's comprehension skills. They required the student's mind application," said Dr. Sadayakumar.
He said the students were for long being prepared to face indirect questions.
"Now the CBSE has announced that 20 per cent of the questions will be based on higher order thinking skills. In other words, the CBSE specified the percentage of HOTS questions or indirect questions, that's all," Dr. Sadayakumar said.
He, however, admitted that the chairman's announcement on the eve of the examinations had created a fear among the students.
There is nothing to worry if Dr. Sadayakumar, who compared the new-pattern model question papers posted on the CBSE website with that of the previous years, can be trusted. "The new questions are slightly tougher. Although they are indirect, they will certainly be on the basis of books prescribed by the CBSE," he said.
Dr. Subhash Kumar, principal of Peevees Public School, too said there was nothing new about the HOTS questions. "We have analysed the model question papers and there is nothing to worry for the students," he said, quelling fears among the students.Molly Cyril, principal of Choice School, has put the issue into a broader perspective.
For long, many CBSE schools, including Choice, have been preparing students to answer comprehension-oriented questions.
The Board's announcement of the new question paper pattern is nothing new, she said. "About 60 per cent of the questions in the Board exams will usually be easy for the average child. Twenty per cent will be meant for the good student. And the remaining 20 per cent can be cracked by the excellent student," she said.
In such a question paper protocol, the 20 per cent HOTS-based questions, as announced by Mr. Ganguly, will not make any difference.
However, Ms. Cyril said it was the responsibility of the principals to garner information about the changes taking place in the academic front. Responsible principals should take the initiative to find out the new measures introduced by the CBSE, she said.