The Central Board of School Examination's (CBSE) decision to explore the move of implementing open book exams, for students in Classes 9 to 12 later this year, is being hailed by educators in the UAE.

However, some principals emphasised that schools independently introduced the open book approach in student assignments, but its effectiveness was somewhat limited.

Earlier, CBSE’s decision to conduct a trial run in specific schools to assess its viability, sparked discussions between advocates of traditional closed-book assessments, characterised by board exams, and supporters of open-book testing.

Muhammad Ali Kottakkulam, Principal, Gulf Indian High School, Dubai, said, “We understand that CBSE is thinking of an Open (Text) Book Examination (OBE) in line with recommendations made in the National Curriculum Framework. These tests would undergo a pilot phase in schools to evaluate various aspects such as completion time, suitability for formative and summative assessment, and stakeholders' perceptions.”

Some schools trial open book concept

They highlighted, “The method could be used in internal exams to promote innovative thinking among students. However, it is in the ideation phase, and there is no plan to adopt the OBE format in the CBSE class 10 and 12 board examinations.”

Principals pointed out that though OBE is a good initiative, it requires proper monitoring, training, and acquainting teachers and students about this concept.

“We started the open book concept in student’s assignments, and it worked well to a certain extent.” Kottakkulam explained the aim was to ensure that students read the entire book and understand the content, instead of reading certain chapters or topics. “OBE requires proper skills to set the questions and ensure that the questions are application-based so that children can apply their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities while writing. Otherwise, the concept will not serve its purpose,” he added.

At certain schools in Abu Dhabi as well, practice sessions already involve collaborative approaches to find answers to questions by consulting guided resources on the internet.

To pilot in select schools in India

K George Mathew, Principal/CEO, GEMS United Indian School – Abu Dhabi, said, “BYOD (bring your own device) is helpful in giving learners such research projects to be presented in class. This method is quite similar to the Open-Book model.

"It is proposed that the pilot project on OBE will run in select schools in India in November-December 2024. We are aware of the CBSE’s thinking behind this and are readying our processes accordingly to meet the assessment style.”

School heads highlighted ‘The Open-Book’ model promotes understanding and interpretation over memorisation.

More weight to competency-based questions

Meanwhile, starting this year CBSE has increased the weight of competency-based questions from 40 per cent to 50 per cent in Grade 12.

“This aligns with the weightage that is followed by Grade 10. It is also in line with the Government of India’s National Education Policy 2020 that urges schools to focus on building competencies in students,” said Ambika Gulati, Principal, The Millennium School – Dubai.

Principals reiterate one of the key changes, in the Assessment and Evaluation Practices of the Board from this academic session is the reduction in the weight of constructed response questions.

Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO - Principal at Credence High School, said, “This includes short answer and long answer type questions, from 40 per cent to 30 per cent in theory examinations. In contrast, competency-focused questions, including Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs), case-based questions, and source-based integrated questions, will now hold a higher weightage.”

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