rat-race

On 15/06/2017, I came across an article in ‘The Times of India’ which reads as under:

“What’s behind the great Indian marks race: As school boards competitively inflate Class XII marks, it becomes hard to tell the best students apart.

In the annual drama of the Class XII results, there are stories of celebration, heartbreak and injustice. The variation in results between various school education boards hurt students. Data over the last five years makes it clear that some boards are competitively generous, in terms  of the pass percentage as well as the proportion of high scorers (90% – and above in aggregate). Other boards have swung in the other direction.

DOLLING OUT CLASS XII MARKS

Year / Pass % 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
CBSE 82.1 82.7 82.0 83.1 82.0
ISC 95.2 95.3 96.3 96.5 96.5
West Bengal 77.4 78.4 82.4 83.7 84.2
Tamil Nadu 88.1 90.6 90.6 91.4 92.1
Gujarat 65.1 63.9 54.1 67.1 68.2
Bihar 88.0 76.2 87.5 62.2 35.3
Karnataka 59.4 60.5 60.5 57.2 52.4
Maharashtra 72.5 84.0 87.9 84.3 87.1
Kerala 81.3 79.4 83.9 80.9 83.4
Punjab* 79.0 84.0 76.0 77.0 62.0
Haryana* NA 73.0 54.0 62.0 73.0
Andhra* 65.0** 66.0 72.0 74.0 65.0
Telengana* 66.0 61.0 63.0 66.0
Uttar Pradesh 92.7 92.2 88.8 87.9 82.6
Odisha 70.0 67.5 76.8 71.6 74.2

*Sourced from media reports

**Undivided Andhra Pradesh

In the last five years, the pass percentage for Class XII examinations conducted by the Council for the Indian School Certificate (ISC) has never come down below 95%, while that of Tamil Nadu State Board has been above 90% since 2014. Other Boards that consistently notch 80% and above in pass percentage are the Uttar Pradesh Board, Kerala Board and Central Board of Secondary Examination with West Bengal Board joining the league in 2015. Andhra, Telengana, Odisha, Punjab, Haryana and Bihar are on the other end of the spectrum.

And it’s not just that more students are passing, they are scoring more too. In every year since 2013, over 10% of students have been scoring 90% and above in ISC. There has been a quantum leap in the number of high scorers for Boards like CBSE, Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well. These four Boards alone have 1,01,822 students this year who scored 90% and above in Class XII exams.

The mandate for the School Education Boards primarily is to set question papers and conduct fair examinations. Over the years, overzealous Boards have decided to give an edge to their students, whether for entrance examinations or for merit – based admissions.”

It will not be out of place to mention here that the position in Matric exam. result (i.e. Xth Std.) is still worse in respect of both pass percentage and number of students scoring 90% and above.

How and when this trend was started, it is very difficult to know with certainty. But as I could recall the genesis of this deadly poison was the emphasis given to marks in Higher Secondary (Earlier XIth Std. ; now XIIth Std.) by a few Institutions / organisations. If I am remembering correctly, three such examples are (i) Admission in BITS, Pilani and Delhi University and (ii) Employment of clerical cadre in Post Offices. One more important point is that this trend started sometime in eighties. Prior to eighties, it was a great achievement if a student had secured a First Division i.e. 60% and above. I was told by my father that during their time in forties and fifties, the number of students securing first division used to so low that the people residing in nearby places used to visit the performer to have a glimpse of him.

Let us now examine what are the fall outs of this trend which has taken a dangerous proportion over the years, as under:

  • It has been creating a huge superiority complex among the students of all such Boards which are doling out liberal marks. On the contrary, it has been causing unprecedented heart burn and forcing them to suffer from inferiority complex in them who could not do so well in the examination.
  • The deluge of 90+ marks makes it difficult to judge students and hurts the truly deserving.
  • A large number of meritorious students are being deprived of getting admission to colleges of their choice and / or subjects of their choice.
  • I do not know the position obtaining now but it was the practice to resort to reduce certain marks from the marks obtained by students from a board other than the state boards with a view to bringing parity in marks. This happened to cause huge embarrassment for those students.

After jotting down some of the fallouts, we need to find out the reason(s) for such a wide disparity in marks and the steps to be taken urgently to rectify this aberration.

Reasons:

(i) Marks obtained by students are dependent on Syllabus, Method of Teaching, Scheme of Examination, Standard and Pattern of Question Papers, etc. Incidentally, all these vary widely from Board to Board.

(ii) Evaluation process or quality of evaluation also varies widely from Board to Board. In other words, the expected level of application and understanding of a particular topic differs from Board to Board.

(iii) Wide variation in expenses on school education is another factor which is compelling meritorious but poor students to settle for inferior quality of education.

(iv) Another factor responsible for this disparity is moderation policy being followed by Boards. Moderation is meant to be used for rectifying any discrepancy in the result that might occur because of wrong questions and other vagaries in the examination process. However, under the pretext of moderation, Boards are resorting to spiking marks and even doling out abnormally high marks per paper.

Solutions:

Let us now look at some possible solutions to the problems spelt out, as under:

(i) A common curriculum involving Syllabus, Method of Teaching, Scheme of Examination, Standard and Pattern of Question Papers could be the best solution to rectify the anomalies. In addition to that, an autonomous and strong Council is a must to enforce this curriculum and oversee its implementation by all the Boards of School Education.

(ii) The Council will also guide on the nitty gritty of evaluation process, understanding and application of the subjects, etc. with a view to bringing in uniformity among the Boards,

(iii) The answer to this problem will be to build a Common School System which will ensure that all kids will go to the same kind of schools irrespective of their social status.

(iv) Moderation of any kind has to be banned across the Boards and marks awarded by various Boards have to be treated at par.

While the problems are known and there are solutions, the success depends much on the strong  will power of both Central and State Governments. Meanwhile, all the stake holders viz. Boards, Schools, Teachers, Students, Parents, Guardians, etc. will have to discuss the entire gamut involving all the aforesaid initiatives. Let us hope that some serious and effective steps will be taken at the earliest to remove the existing system deficiencies.

Rat Race: The race for marks over real education
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