As a teacher when I analyse the impact of the grading system in education on students,I revert to some basic questions. The first WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF EDUCATION? Is it about scoring high marks/grades,being admitted in top colleges,securing decent jobs with fantastic packages, or is it about developing individuals with excellent ability,coupled with right values who become assets to their nation and the world?
Then I ask what are marks? What follows is a tongue-in-cheek definition Marks are a report of an inaccurate judgement by a biased and variable judge of the extent in which a student has attained an undefined level of mastery of an unknown proportion of an indefinite amount of material.
Then what are Grades? Here is simple definition Grades are standardised measurements of varying levels of achievement in a course. Grades can be assigned in letters (for example A,B,C,D),as a range (for example 1 to 6),or as descriptors (excellent,great,satisfactory,needs improvement). All grades are usually averaged to create a grade point average (GPA) for the marking period.
The next question what is the purpose of the marking or the grading system? Both the systems more or less aim to achieve the same objective. While marks help students identify their exact scores,grades place students in predefined categories. Under the marking system,even if two students are of similar calibre,one may outscore the other by a fraction of a point. This encourages competitiveness to score that extra mark; students study harder and pay attention to details. This is a positive side-effect as students learn to work under a certain amount of stress which we all know is a prerequisite to succeed in this world. The negative is that it leads to the perception that high marks,rather than real knowledge,is important.
The grading system,as recommended by CBSE,was introduced in 2008-09 to reduce the pressure on students giving them an opportunity to explore other avenues. Following the US model,the implementation of the grading system brought in more practical education basically replacing the theoretical method. It gave a varied range of opportunities,providing children of all levels a platform to showcase their talent and pursue their interests.
CCE (Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation) recommended by CBSE has helped in reducing stress of students by identifying progress of students at regular intervals on small portions of content. It also employs a variety of evaluation methods based on learners needs. This system refrains from using negative comments on the learners performance and encourages learning through variety of teaching techniques. It recognises and encourages specific abilities of students,who may not excel in academics but perform well in other co-curricular areas,by giving due importance to participation in co-curricular activities like music,dance,art,dramatics and other areas of interest. It should be clearly understood that introduction of CCE does not mean less emphasis on academic attainment.
The system places students of similar calibre on an equal footing and,thus,zeroes out complexes and negativity. Awarding grades has a number of advantages over awarding numerical marks. It considerably reduces inter and intra-examiner variability in marking. It also takes care of imperfection of tools used for assessment as well as reduces undesired comparison of small difference of marks.
The grading system by and large is a global system. It definitely provides a standardisation of excellence at the school level. Our education system took a step forward by introducing this system. However,my only concern is that the students who are high academic achievers should not feel that their work is not valued anymore.
It seems indeed to be a boon. Ask the students who have received their CBSE Class X results. Students,teachers,principals and the nation are all happy. Why? The all-India result this year is 98% pass. The national literacy index has shot up. A number of teachers were initially apprehensive,but the overall result is good,so they are smiling too. The students are happy as the board upgraded their results. Weaker students get a second chance by getting EIOP (Eligible for Improvement of Performance). The unhappy ones are a few who are just percentage crazy. A1 and A2 are not good enough for them. On the whole,the grading system has maximised achievers and minimised failures.
The parent and the teacher community together now acknowledge the special talents of a student,be it in any field. Value education is now an integral part of the grading system,with rote learning taking a back seat and problem solving abilities of students being enhanced.
I would like to conclude by saying that giving undue importance to marks is an unhealthy and unsustainable way to manage our evaluation. Students come to schools to grow and fulfill their potential and the grading system,if adopted with honesty and sincerity,promises to make future generations rational,progressive and humane.
My message for students
Dont forget that your happiness is the most important thing and that you should never equate your CGPA with your sense of self-worth… If you feel overwhelmed,take a step back and remind yourself that you are not your grades. As you work to become a better student,remember that learning is far more important than the numbers on your transcript. I know it can be hard sometimes to remember what you are in school for. In some places,students go crazy over a tenth of a point but this is an unhealthy and an unsustainable way to manage your education. The real reason you are in school is to grow as a person and fulfill your potential.