DUBAI // The majority of Indian students in the UAE are foregoing an option not to take “traumatic” examinations over fears they will impede education and career opportunities if they return to India.
The Indian Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) external examinations, taken by Grade 10 and Grade 12 students, are considered so crucial to a child’s future that the resulting stress has been linked to several teenagers’ suicides in India.
The standardised examinations are taken by Grade 10 pupils at Indian high schools across the world and evaluated in Delhi.
The results determine what subject streams the child will be allowed to follow through to Grade 12 – science, commerce, or arts and humanities. That subject choice affects their chances of getting into university and in essence determines their potential career path.
Helplines and counselling services are set up a month before the exams commence to ease anxiety among students and parents.
The official CBSE helpline in the UAE received 25 calls every day before the exams began last year said David Ipe, the counsellor in charge, who is based at the Indian High School in Dubai.
Last year, the Central Education Board in India decided to make the external assessments optional from 2011.
Students may now choose to be assessed only by their school, but internally-graded examinations may not hold good if a child wants to transfer to a school or university in India.
The majority of students in the UAE decided to opt to take the March CBSE examinations for fear they may have to go home to India, where school-based scores do not hold as much value as the results of a CBSE exam.
“For many parents the situation is quite fluid here,” said V.K. Mathu, the principal of the Abu Dhabi Indian School, where only 78 of the 320 students have opted for the school-based exams.
“Most of them think they will be returning back to India and admissions to other schools may require CBSE examination scores.”
Sunil Menon, a parent whose son is in Grade 10 at Emirates National School in Sharjah, said he plans to go back home and admission to a new school could be an issue with just the internal scores.
“There is a job uncertainty here and I do not want my son to be in a limbo if we have to relocate,” he said.
Attempts to revamp the education system have been led by Kapil Sibal, India’s human resource development minister, who has repeatedly called the old methods of teaching and assessing students an “unhealthy approach”.
Mr Menon said he favoured the changes CBSE has embarked on to modernise Indian education but said it should be a gradual process.
“There needs to be more co-ordination between the education boards so that students can move between curricula,” Mr Menon said.
Effective reform of the 59-year-old system also required a mindset change said Dr Farooq Wasil, the director of Gems Asian schools in the UAE.
Most of the students at Gems CBSE schools have also registered for the Indian-administered exams. “Parents are finding it hard to come to terms with this system and still consider marks as the ultimate seal of achievement,” he said.
Ranjana Radhakrishnan, a Grade 10 student of the Our Own Indian School in Dubai, still considers the external examinations the best method.
“Board exams are better because they seem more serious in nature rather than something the school might set,” she said.
The CBSE helpline number in the UAE is 04 337 7475, and it is available from noon to 4pm.