Content is the king.
We hear this everywhere, from every author’s Q/A, to the reason of a successful blog post. As a blogger, when I write a post, I have to give the most importance to the content, in order to attract viewers and followers. But, unfortunately, not so is the case when it comes to CBSE’s curriculum for English Core.
Amidst all the subjects we study, English exam is one where we (should) get a chance to explore our creativity in several forms, showcase our writing skills, and just have fun while giving the exam. Thanks to my English teacher, Ms. Gunjan, I had absolute fun answering the questions for the past 2 years, but as I sat to prepare for my board, and get tips about writing the answers, I understand how it’s exactly what you don’t want an English exam to be.
I have finished preparing for tomorrow, so, I’ll talk about few issues I find about how English answer sheets are checked.
First thing that annoys me is the word limit. Your answer must not exceed the amount of words the question asks you to write, even if you have a lot more to say, along with time left. Word Limit is an important scale for fair marking, I agree, but can’t a lower word limit solve the purpose? I don’t like to cut short my article to 200 words, when I can easily write a much longer article without compromising on quality. Like, this article I wrote has 905 words, and is well edited. It’s one of my personal favorites of what I’ve written. Having no word limit enabled me to share my views and organize the thoughts in a much better way. Word limit often results in a good beginning, but an unsatisfactory ending. To give a decent conclusion, one ends up losing on content one wants to express.
Here’s a fun letter I wrote in one of my classes. And, guess what? It’s 100 words overboard. Any Potterhead would tell you that it’s just not enough to write everything, about a minor plot of a fictional world. How’re we to stick to 150 words while talking about a real life issue to the Editor of some leading newspaper?
This brings me to how the bigger concern than what to write is being loyal to the formats. Infact, formats are so monitored that, yours truly is the new trending way you’ve to use to sign off in a letter instead of yours faithfully. I agree there are basic structure we need to have for letters, ads, notices, etc, but the marking scheme goes overly concerned about how accurate it is, even more than the content! As if there is some global hard and fast rule – even for informal letters and invitations – that there must not be a comma at the end of a line while writing an Address.
Now, let’s talk about Literature for a minute. Being honest, each of the stories or poems in the course of Grade 12 carry a beautiful message, or at least something that gives you stuff to ponder upon and have a classroom discussion on. An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum by Stephen Spender and Lost Spring by Anees Jung talk about poverty, while Going Places by AR Barton is about a girl having schizophrenia. The Rattrap by Selma Lagerlof & The Enemy by Pearl S Buck talk about humanity while Memories of Childhood by Zitkala-Sa and Bama explores discrimination. Should Wizard Hit Mommy by John Updike presents a tale about a conflict of opinions between a child and her father. We learn get to know different tales related to fear and/or overcoming it in Deep Water by William Douglas, Indigo by Louis Fischer & Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers by Adrienne Rich, while also talking about Indian history and men’s dominance in the society. The Last Lesson by Alphonse Daudet touches hearts while The Tiger King by Kalki makes us laugh.
As I said, the themes are really fun and invoke great classroom discussions. But, the problem arises when we’re told to write answers in a certain way. We’re to omit certain details just because they aren’t mentioned directly in the story, like Sophia having schizophrenia. We’re to stick to certain points and describe them in the simplest possible language like we would answer a Political Science question, without developing on it further. Despite having great themes, we’re not given the freedom to explore them and interpret them in the way we want to.
Take ‘Should Wizard Hit Mommy’ for example. The story tells us how parents are more experienced, thus are correct. But, personally, I find Jo’s version of the ending much more correct than her dad’s. And, I have very valid interpretation to support it, but alas, it won’t work in Boards. I have to write exactly what there will be on the marking scheme. And, this is just one example.
Of course, there’s no issue in writing what they want us to write, especially since we get marks for it. But, English as a subject has a great potential to help the student think out of the box, and it is wasted by how the course is designed. The questions asked are straight forward, and do not encourage the student to think before writing, even in the writing section.
I hope someday some change is brought in our education system. Meanwhile, I wish you all the luck for tomorrow’s English exam, and all the other upcoming boards in this month! To my other readers in 10th, college or other grades of school, all the best for your respective exams! Do your best.