Tough math: Blaming CBSE for an application-based question paper is just wrong

Learning by rote or deeper understanding of the subject to get ahead in life?

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) seems to be putting emphasis on the latter which is why the recently held Class 12 Mathematics exam stumped the students and parents whose focus seems to be an engineering degree from IIT leading to a good job.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The focus is now on to shift from traditional mechanical way of learning and reproducing in the examination, to adopt to an application-based learning system, which may ultimately help India in its dream for innovation.

According to the experts in the field of mathematics and education, the issue of CBSE’s mathematics question paper of Class 12 that created lot of public hue and cry was uncalled for. It’s more due to the focus on application-based concept that created the problem. They said “a few lengthy and tricky questions” were there, but it was the gradual shift in trend that caused difficulty for many students who were accustomed to mechanical way of learning and problem-solving.

Educationist and former principal, Aravali Public School, Munshi Nazmul Hasan said, “There’s a paradigm shift in teaching and learning system that has been taking place – from earlier rote learning process to application-based learning. This is the need of the hour, if India wants to lead in innovations. How many world-class mathematicians have India produced since Srinivasa Ramanujan? A good student of mathematics opts for an engineering course in IITs or NITs and settles in a job with a big-pay packet. Innovation is lacking. Everything is moving ahead in a mechanical way, despite the fact that Indians are considered as one of the best brains in mathematics.”

The CBSE already made it clear to all schools to follow application-based teaching and developing the students on this line.

“Now the emphasis is on comprehension, understanding of concepts and application of the concepts unlike in the past where students depended more on memorising or rote learning. That’s why 10-15 percent marks have been allotted to such higher-order and application-based questions. We need to change from the old system,” a CBSE official told Firstpost on condition of anonymity.

Agrees SK Bhattacharya, former principal of Bal Bharti Public School. “CBSE has emphasised on this for quite some time. The emphasis is on High Order Thinking Skill and application-based learning. Instructions were issued to schools across the country and large number of schools has already been following it. The hue and cry that took place related mathematics question paper of Class 12 was in fact not due to lengthy questions alone, it was the ‘tricky’ questions, which were application-based. Gradually, the mechanical learning won’t help. The impetus is on understanding of logic and reasoning. Till now focus has been on examination-oriented pattern—how one can get through an examination successfully and get a plum job.”

The CBSE now wants to bring the concept of high order thinking skill and application-based learning in its examination pattern by devising questions those would compel students to think. The focus is on taking students above the knowledge and application levels. “The aim is to train the students to understand and analyse a situation and use applications to solve a problem – be it mathematics or any other subject,” the CBSE official said.

“It has been observed that despite having knowledge, one fails to use it in a practical situation. This is becoming a world-wide trend now to move to application based concept. It’s not only about solving a mathematics question, but how one can use it in different situations in a real life. India needs to strengthen this area of application, which is extremely important for innovations. Despite the fact that we hardly get the best talents in education, still lot of training is being provided to teachers on this concept. It’s a slow process and take some time both for the students and society internalise it,” added Hasan, a trainer in e-learning and mathematics.

“After the Math paper, I interacted with large numbers of students and teachers. The students didn’t find the question paper tough, but a few questions were tricky. There’s a need for the students now to understand the concepts thoroughly and then focus on its applicability in a given situation. This is must if a student wants to for a higher learning in IITs or Ivy League universities instead of just opting for a job. In days to come, this system will be in place in every state boards as well,” said Bhattacharya, who’s also president, Action Committee of Public Schools.