CBSE, state board Class 12 syllabus cuts push students to coaching centres, dummy schools

CBSE Class 12 exam syllabus was cut but tests like JEE Main, NEET still follow full NCERT Class 12 physics, chemistry, maths, biology books.


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The removal of topics in Class 12 syllabus in CBSE exam has led students to opt for dummy schools that focus on cracking JEE and NEET (Photo: Shutterstock)The removal of topics in Class 12 syllabus in CBSE exam has led students to opt for dummy schools that focus on cracking JEE and NEET (Photo: Shutterstock)

R. Radhika | February 17, 2023 | 04:28 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Shaurya*, a Class 12 student in Maharashtra decided to join a dummy school two years ago instead of continuing school like others.

The decision, she said, became crucial to qualify for the national-level Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA). The textbooks designed by the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and followed by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) were ‘rationalised’. In the past two academic sessions 2020-21 and 2021-22, the content was reduced by 30 percent for Classes 9 to 12. In the current one, the syllabus was cut by 15 percent. The CBSE Class 12 board exams dates are from February 15.

“I would have liked to self-study and score on my own instead of joining a coaching centre. These would have been my last two years in school and I could have stayed and enjoyed it. But after the syllabus was reduced, a lot of the topics that are important for JEE will not be taught in school. I had no option but to join the coaching centre,” she said. While the board had reduced the syllabus for school students from Class 6 to 12, highly competitive exams will continue to follow the full Class 12 NCERT physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics, she added.

Owing to school closures and online classes, NCERT felt it “imperative to reduce content load on students” appearing for the Class 12 board exams. Not just CBSE, several state boards including Kerala State Education Board (KSEB) and Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education (RBSE) reduced their Class 12 exam syllabi too. Still part of the NCERT books, the dropped topics and chapters will not be asked in the board examination. In consequence, many schools either did not teach those sections at all or skimmed over them, placing students preparing for exams such as JEE Main and the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) in 2023, at a disadvantage.

“Every day, I spend 8-10 hours at the coaching centre and then there is less time left for anything else. If I attend a regular school, they would ask me to attend all classes but not teach me what I want to learn the most,” she added.

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For “distraction-free preparations'', dummy schools allow students to sit for the board examination without the prerequisite 75 percent attendance. Classes at such schools are conducted for limited hours and students may not visit it at all until it’s time for the practical exams. The NCERT syllabus reduction has pushed many who were sitting on the fence about it, into dummy schools.

Prey to coaching industry

Last year, the union minister of state for education, Annapurna Devi, told parliament that NCERT’s rationalising school textbooks is meant to support “speedy recovery in students learning continuum and compensating time loss” due to the extended school closures during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, for those who cannot afford expensive coaching centres, self-studying from the NCERT books has become burdensome.

“The questions in competitive exams like JEE and NEET include questions from sections that have been rationalised in NCERT syllabus and the board exam does not include it. I don’t have the means to go to a coaching centre. If the syllabus has been rationalised in schools, why should it be included in the JEE syllabus at all?” asked a Class 12 JEE aspirant, on the condition of anonymity.

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The student further accused NTA for pushing lakhs of students towards “benefiting the coaching mafia’s businesses” instead of ensuring students’ interest. “If the syllabi of JEE and NEET remain the same as taught in schools, many from poor and lower middle-class families have a chance to qualify. NTA should give options in section A and B to address the reduction of syllabus. Due to the apathy of the exam conducting authority, students are falling prey to the Kota factory.”

“The NTA has been collecting information on the mode of preparation in JEE application forms from students for some time now. I will not be surprised if the number of students who appear for the exam after preparing with coaching institutes is higher. I don’t know what they do with this data if there are no changes in exam pattern,” the student further added.

Deleted syllabus of Class 12

A private school teacher in Kanpur, Seema Verma*, has two daughters, each preparing for the medical and engineering entrance tests in the upcoming year. “There are so many crucial topics like p-block elements, topics from organic chemistry and metallurgy [Class 12 chemistry syllabus] that are usually important topics that come in competitive exams. Since these topics will not be asked in Class 12 boards, the teachers usually skim through it. However, the entrance test includes several questions from these topics,” she said.

Meanwhile, some schools have continued to teach even sections that have been cut. “It is true that NCERT has rationalised the syllabus by deducting a few topics, however, we teach everything at our school. The NCERT has not given any directions that the topics should not be taught. The topics that were removed may not be relevant from the board exam point of view but at least in our school, the topics are covered,” said Sudha Acharya, principal, ITL Public School.

Despite the removal of topics, a Delhi Government physics teacher said, the topics are discussed in classrooms for a coherent understanding of concepts. Many in her classroom, she said, cannot afford coaching and therefore no topic from the Class 12 physics syllabus is off the table.

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“Yes, there are topics that have been rationalised to suit the need of the hour but we still discuss, if not deal with it in-depth. There are topics for which without dealing with the basics we cannot teach further so we do discuss topics that have been rationalised. I receive doubts and questions from students who are still in school and some even who have left school last year on WhatsApp after the school hours. Those who can afford, have become a part of a trend that makes them opt for coaching centres instead of continuing school,” she said.

“Polymers, metallurgy, topics from chemistry in everyday life and in physics, current and electricity, metre bridge, potentiometer, cyclotron, moving charges and magnetism have been removed. In math, the syllabus in Classes 11 and 12 physics books is very different. A lot of topics are not related except a few basics like integration and vectors,” Shaurya explained.

Dummy schools

The existence of dummy schools is an open secret. They undermine the very purpose and importance of regular schooling.

“We all know dummy schools have existed for some time now. These are illegal schools and the Central Board of Secondary Education has provision to shut them down. Rather than students, it is the parents who must be cautious of joining such enterprises. These dummy schools either allow students to skip classes to attend coaching centres, or have tie-ups with coaching institutes. We do not teach our students to compete in competitive exams but prepare them for CBSE board exams. It is very unfortunate that the parents of such children have lost faith in the school education system,” said Indrani Neogi, teacher, Army Public School, Delhi.

“Last year my son started his preparation for the JEE entrance test and I found that many of his classmates decided to leave regular schools and join hostel-like coaching centres. There is no way that the authorities are oblivious to this trend that is continuously diminishing the relevance of schools,” said another private school teacher, asking not to be named.

The CBSE, also aware of the fact, has no mechanism to crack down on dummy schools so far. Although, action is taken once reported to the board.

“There are certain schools that follow unfair practices. When it is brought to our attention, we take strict action against such schools by disaffiliating them. There is no way to check whether a student is appearing from a dummy school or a regular one. But it depends a lot on the parents because no one can keep a check on parents. Schools conduct seminars to make parents aware about the benefits of regular schools,” said Sanyam Bharadwaj, controller of examinations, CBSE. “People should know that overall development of a child can only be done in proper schools,” he added.

*Names changed on request

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