The wait for a way to assess Class XII students after the cancellation of the board examinations has created immense anxiety in students and parents. This is a lesson for us to ensure that our systems are in place, and that methods of teaching and evaluating must not rest only on three-hour pencil-paper tests.

On this issue, we have to look at both the short and long-term evaluation goals.

In the immediate future, in order to bring respite to students who seek admission in colleges in India and abroad, an algorithmic formula has to be created which will, fairly and transparently, help tide over the current crisis. Unfortunately, due to the immediacy of the issue, every formula put forward will have detractors because none will be fool proof. A variety of scientific permutations and combinations will have to be worked out, which may range from calculating the performance averages from Class X to Class XII, taking evidence from historical data and defining a referral year, so that the result is authenticated and validated by the CBSE.

At the same time, our long-term goals of internal assessments, teacher training, online and offline bridging, investing in technological pathways for student access, should be initiated with immediate effect. This will help change the dynamics of learning.

Assessment is defined as a systematic review of learning, use of information collected from various experiences and consistent feedback. This definition contradicts how we assess our learners because we do not give them a variety of learning experiences. We assess them through a year-end standardised test of three hours in the national exams.

Assessments should have multiple rubrics in place. This will help to gauge what learners know, measure their understanding, track progress, help in planning the next step, assign remedial work and constantly give feedback to the stakeholders.

It is important to establish cross-assessments which are reliable and objective, in order to ensure comparability within teacher evaluation. It is also essential to develop a framework to evaluate more autonomously. Evaluation tools need to be changed depending on the subjects. A student cannot be evaluated in science the way she is in languages.

Questions have to be application-based. Banks of case studies, without too many knowledge and memory-based tasks, should be created. Interesting testing systems, such as gamified tests, periodic midterms, project-based tests, should be attempted. An individual grade or marks scored for a single event cannot endorse a whole year’s work.

The three most important things to bring about change are creating mobility in thought, stabilising the online-offline pathways and strategising the methods needed to change assessment and to teach learning methodology.

For this, we need to create capacity-building methods where every child is equipped with a diversity of knowledge and emphasis is given to her competencies, values and attitudes, using experiential pedagogy that integrates art, play, life skills, social and emotional learning with an interdisciplinary approach.

Assessments in the context of the National Education Policy mark a shift from a summative to a formative and competency-based learning system. In such a framework, assessments need to be based on teacher-student feedback, which plays a significant role in understanding the priorities of students and empowering teachers to meet their learning requirements.

The purpose of assessment is to understand learning outcomes. Identifying learning, aligning it to the goal, mapping skills, designing authentic tasks through which progress can be captured should be the essence of assessment.

A holistic report card should be equitable, inclusive and joyful, reflecting the learner’s diverse knowledge. A combination of self, peer, teacher and parent assessment will help create students who can reconcile tensions, take on responsibilities, shape better futures for themselves and others, and understand the importance of well-being and sustainability.

Unless education is more contemporary and child-centric, our children will not be able to cope with the rigours of the future. We need to have alternative learning systems that are enjoyable, inclusive, progressive and holistic. Breaking the mould of rote learning will help children realise their full potential.

The number of schools and students in the CBSE is growing each year. Evaluating question papers physically will become a challenge. Issues of paperwork, manpower, confidentiality, and monitoring teachers in evaluation centres, will continue to pose problems. The creation of online assessment platforms has to be explored and supported by regional centres and schools. Schools and teachers have to be empowered by giving weightage to school-based assessments and continuous evaluation programmes because a year-end exam is no longer the future of learning. The board has done remarkable teacher training in a variety of areas during the pandemic. Aspects of assessment can be included in these training models.

The Sahodaya school clusters which already exist within CBSE schools should be empowered to conduct group evaluations. Linking teachers in regional groups and giving them opportunities to move away from mechanical assessments will help to stop anonymous evaluation.

We need to shift to a collaborative mindset, where teachers work together to enhance the learning experience of all students. School groups should use the opportunity presented by the pandemic to share work and practices across departments and faculties.

The role of a teacher has to be transformed. She should be able to accelerate change, redesign systems with equity in mind, respond to feedback, encourage collaboration, catch and pollinate ideas and create a culture of research and development. Governments, parents and all stakeholders will have to trust schools and teachers to be the true harbingers of change.