Inflated marks awarded to examinees in CBSE and ICSE have eroded the credibility of the assessment system
DEVI KAR, director of Modern High School for Girls, tells ABP Education why many students are applying for the international programmes.
ABP Education: Modern High School has introduced the International Baccalaureate (IB) as an optional programme at the Higher Secondary level. What are the benefits of an IB education?
Devi Kar: The International Baccalaureate is an inquiry-based, holistic programme which focuses on ‘learning by doing’ and aims at an all-round development of the student. An attractive aspect of this programme is that there is no streaming. The CORE includes research-based essay writing, TOK (Theory of Knowledge) and CAS (Creativity, Activity and Service). The mandatory 4,000-word extended essay involves intensive research and demands proper academic writing skills. TOK teaches critical thinking and CAS promotes innovativeness and deals with the practical aspects of a sound education.
What prompted you to lead MHS on the road to international programmes?
When I joined Modern High School for Girls in 2000, it was affiliated to the West Bengal Secondary and Higher Secondary Board and Council. In 2005, we were granted affiliation to the CISCE (Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations). As the years passed the country opened up and there was a new interest in educational reforms and modern educational practices across the globe. More and more students began to show an interest in different international programmes and in exploring higher study opportunities outside India.
Consequently, we at MHS decided that it was time to open an international wing. In 2018, we were affiliated to IBO (International Baccalaureate Organisation) and we began our IB classes. CAIE (Cambridge Assessment International Education) authorised us to offer the IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) programmes in April this year.
However, the international programmes are relatively expensive and cannot be afforded by all students. Therefore, at MHS, irrespective of the specific programme or board, we try to share best practices throughout the school.
The school now follows a dual board option of ICSE and IGCSE at the secondary level. What is the IGCSE and what made you opt for it?
IGCSE is offered by CAIE. This course is designed for Classes IX and X and provides the ideal foundation for the IBDP (International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme) which is offered in the last two years of school. The IGCSE, like the IB, focuses on inquiry-based learning, authentic assessment and an up-to-date curriculum.
The CBSE and ICSE curricula are excellent but in both cases the nature of the examinations leaves much to be desired. The examination papers that are set year after year and the way they are assessed, encourage rote learning and promote dependence on textbooks. Also, the absurdly inflated marks that examinees are awarded have eroded the credibility of the assessment system in the past few years. Therefore, IGCSE is being offered as an option in addition to the fact that there is a demand for it.
What are the key differences between IB and IGCSE?
The IGCSE programme is meant for Classes IX and X. It is designed and administered by CAIE and is tailored to individual needs and preferences. Any number of courses can be taken by a student.
The IB diploma programme is designed and administered by IBO (International Baccalaureate Organisation). It is meant for Classes XI and XII and is more structured and ‘prescribed’. It demands that a student does two languages, one humanities subject, one science subject plus mathematics and one subject in the arts. A wide range of subject options is available.
Grading is somewhat different. IGCSE candidates are graded from A to N while IB follows a 7-point system with 7 being the best and 1 the worst.
Both systems focus on criterion-referenced assessment as opposed to the older norm-based assessment.
Does an IB education/certification give students an added advantage when they apply for admission in foreign colleges/universities?
In the US, students get additional credit for completing IB courses and sometimes they can fulfil graduation requirements earlier than those who have not done the IB.
It is generally accepted that IB students get a head start in acquiring certain academic skills that are required in higher studies.
Overseas universities have been seen to actively seek out IB students and some even offer tuition waivers.
The CBSE and ICSE curricula are excellent but in both cases the nature of the examinations leaves much to be desired. The examination papers that are set year after year and the way they are assessed, encourage rote learning. Also, the absurdly inflated marks that examinees obtain have eroded the credibility of the assessment system in the past few years.
— DEVI KAR, director of Modern High School for Girls
So, is an IB qualification meant mainly for those who want to go abroad for higher studies?
This is not strictly correct. Most universities in India accept IB students and many students apply for the IB programme for the stimulating academic experience it is known for, while keeping all doors open.
From which class can one study IB at MHS? What is the process of admission for non-MHS students and how can those studying at MHS make the shift to IB?
IB is meant only Classes XI and XII.
For non-MHS students, admission is by application as announced on the school website. Applications must include reports of Classes IX and X. Shortlisted candidates are required to take a written test and attend a formal interview.
MHS holds information sessions for its own students and their parents. These sessions are followed by discussions with faculty of the IB Department and interaction with the School Counsellor and the IBDP Coordinator who assist them in their choice of subjects and facilitate a smooth transition to the international programme.
In what way is IB aligned with the National Education Policy and in which areas do they differ?
In order to understand the differences and similarities we will have to see how the NEP is actually implemented
Placing graduating students in internships is a strong initiative at MHS. Is that part of the IB requirement?
No, it is not an IB requirement but the CAS (Creativity Activity and Service) referred to earlier, calls upon students to engage in community service in a sustained manner. We discourage students to take up community service just to fulfil a course requirement. The focus is on serving the community as an inherent responsibility of every individual. In a manner, this prepares students for the world of work.
Incidentally, all MHS students are introduced to community service programmes from an early age.
Our senior national curriculum students are also given proper work experience in the form of job shadowing and short internships.
What next for MHS?
In the coming session (2021-22), we hope to move our IGCSE and IB classes to our new international wing, “MHS International”. The green, state-of-the-art building which is being constructed adjacent to the main building is nearing completion.
MHS International will be a co-educational school.
It is our stated objective that the education that is imparted at MHS should have a uniform stamp of excellence, irrespective of the programme or Board affiliation. Modern High School for Girls, Kolkata, has always been acclaimed for academic excellence ever since its establishment in 1952. The long list of distinguished alumnae over the years is remarkably impressive. Indeed, our students have brought glory to their alma mater by excelling in their chosen fields all over the globe.
But most of all, we feel proud that they keep demonstrating that the motto, ‘service unto others’, is ingrained in them.