The topper in this year’s Class 12 examinations conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education has scored 100 per cent. Her achievement is even more notable given that not all the subjects she opted for are the traditionally high scoring ones — History, English, Geography, Insurance, Economics and Sanskrit. She is amongst the 1,57,934 students who have secured more than 90 per cent. In fact, the number of those who scored in excess of 90 per cent has increased by more than 65 per cent this year. And the number of students who have scored more than 95 per cent has doubled. The personal accomplishments of these students should, no doubt, be celebrated — especially since several of them have, reportedly, overcome difficult odds. But also spare a thought for those who have not got such high marks. Does a system based on “perfect” marks offer fair opportunities to students from diverse learning environments? Does scoring well in board exams necessarily mean learning well?
Principals of Delhi University colleges have indicated that the high marks will lead to increases in cut-offs for undergraduate courses. This is nothing new. The cut-offs have been increasing virtually every year for the past 30 years in most parts of the country, leading to a situation where every decimal point scored in the senior secondary examination becomes critical for college admissions. But there is something terribly wrong with an educational system when a student with 95 per cent marks gets admission to an institution, while the one who secured 94.5 per cent is left in the lurch. It speaks of a system designed to exclude while fostering an illusion of merit. The problem becomes graver given that good institutions of higher learning are so few in the country. The frantic competition to get into a good college — where every mark counts — make parents enrol their students into tutorial “institutes”, which have mushroomed all over the country. This bizarre state of affairs, when even a bright student does not feel assured about getting admission to a good institution, is also the cause of mounting anxiety amongst children.
In 2008, less than 500 students got more than 95 per cent marks in the Class 12 examinations conducted by the CBSE. In 10 years, this number increased to more than 15,000. And this year, this number has gone up to 38,686. But all this does not necessarily signify an improvement in the learning environment. There are enough studies to show that the evaluation criteria of the board examinations do not encourage students to go beyond a rudimentary understanding of the subject, at best. This system needs to be reevaluated.
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