NEW DELHI: If the final draft of the new National Education Policy is approved, a candidate may be able to take the board exams twice in a year as early as 2022, thereby eliminating the “high stakes” aspect of the exams and easing the pressure on students and their parents. Allowing students to excel in topics of their choice, the straitjacket of a particular format of subjects could also be relaxed and students will be able to pick subjects depending on their individualised interests for the board examinations. Moreover, the new policy also calls for a high-quality common modular entrance exam multiple times each year for undergraduate admissions in higher education institutions. Under school education and in the sub-section “Transforming assessment for student development”, the NEP says the “schooling system will shift from one that primarily tests rote memorisation skills to one that is more formative, is competency based, promotes learning and development for our students, and tests higher-order skills such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity.” In order to reverse the “harmful effects” of the current assessment system, the NEP is of the view that the board exams will test primarily core capacities, so that “any student who has been going to and making a basic effort in a school class will be able to pass the corresponding subject board exam without much additional effort.” The policy draft has entrusted the task of preparing the guidelines for multiple board exams on the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) for the transformation of the assessment system by 2022. According to former CBSE chairperson Ashok Kumar Ganguly, “What the new policy is talking about is semesterisation of board exam. The core curriculum approach is now being done away with. The board exam will now be modular in nature and students will be given options to take board exams twice in a given single year. As the number of variables in our board exam is very large, how this will be implemented in very large boards like UP and CBSE needs to be seen. And whether this will not adversely impact the already precarious teaching learning process in the school.”Welcoming the focus on formative assessment, Ganguly however said that there is also not much clarity about exam pattern in class IX and XII. “It is heartening that policy recognises the importance of formative assessment but how this will be given effect at grassroot level needs to be seen – knowing the fact that continuous and comprehensive evaluation earlier were discarded.”Another former CBSE chief B P Khandelwal said board exams had already seen a transformation when they used to be conducted for two-years of study (Class XI and XII). “Now the board exam is based only on class XII syllabi. The point the policy is clear about is that one should not create trauma in the minds of the students due to board exams. The competition in board exam has become nothing but attainment of high marks and not quality assessment. Last decade or so we have seen how marks have been inflated. “Linking the transition from school to higher education, the NEP states that the principles for university entrance exams will be similar whereby the NTA will deliver high-quality common modular entrance exams multiple times annually in various subjects and the exams shall test the conceptual understanding and the abilities to apply knowledge, and shall eliminate the need for taking coaching for these exams.“It is good that university entrance exams are now being taken care of for the first time. It was long due. That the process of university entrance exam is being changed from a system of elimination to a system of selection is a welcome step,” said Ganguly while registering his concern that the quality of university education across the country is not uniform.