Last week, the Central Board of Secondary Education announced results for the Class 10th and 12th board exams. After the announcement, some parents shared their children’s marks on social media sites. Relatives started comparing marks obtained by children of their clan.
There were also comparisons, in the media, of the results of girls with boys, of one state with another. This happens every year. The exam results are a window to look into the complexity and problems of the country’s school education system. The values talked in the school do not reflect in our public discourse. Once board exam results are out, comparisons and individual achievements form the core of family conversations. Very often, even schools and teachers fail to talk about the uniqueness of every child. This shows the importance we give to competition in our personal lives.
But do we give any thought to how students get such high marks in the CBSE board exams? The students’ motivation, hard work, and preparation for the exams, of course, play a big role. But are similar scores obtained by students from schools affiliated to state boards? Does the evaluation system also contribute to high scores? How come students get 100 per cent marks in subjects like English? Does the way the question paper is designed have any role in the exam results? A comparative study of the CBSE exam system and the state board examination system could help answer such questions.
These marks help students to secure admission in higher education institutes. If different exam boards have different methods of evaluating students, how appropriate is it to select them on the basis of their marksheet? The Ministry of Human Resource Development should look into this issue. We require students from all sections and varied calibers in a university for a harmonious society. The Yashpal Committee had also proposed examination reforms.
Where are the students who have scored less or who are deemed “unsuccessful”? They might be under immense social pressure. Why should they be hiding? They should be given another chance. Some students are anxious that their scores are lower than that expected by parents. In such circumstances, parents have to understand that the child has done well in the given conditions. A student may have interests other than academics and she should not be penalised or called a “failure”.
High scores are an indicator of the liberal evaluation system. The school conducts an internal assessment. A major chunk of the students get high percentages in practical exams. It is also well-known that most schools are under pressure to deliver in the exams. Teachers and students carry the burden of “performance”. For this reason, several schools have a process to select “meritorious” students — this process usually begins after grade 8th.
In the current evaluation system, there is less opportunity for analytical write-ups, long essays, and detailed answers. Instead, it has multiple-choice questions and demands short, and even very short answers. This method contributes to high marks. If we take the case of language, in the English test paper, assessing teachers may not be required to check spelling and grammar. In Sanskrit, if the student identifies a picture and does not provide an accurate description, she can still get one out of two marks. Should we not re-examine this system?
No one can evaluate a student on the basis of a three hour-long performance. Students should aspire for more and they should be encouraged to do that. The board results should not be concluded as a blueprint of the student career. Many other factors such as the type of school, methods of assessment, preparation, cultural values, and available resources contribute to a student’s performance. Do schools, teachers, and parents always live up to the expectations of students? If a student is pronounced “unsuccessful” on the basis of a three-hour long examination, then the blame should also be laid on the doors of the school, parents, and the examination system.
In India, the board exams and its result have become a social issue rather than a pedagogical process. In any class, nearly 60 per cent of the students will be average in academics. This does not mean that they cannot do better in life. A student may learn music, do photography, join politics or excel in sports. Does anyone ask for the mark sheet of Sachin Tendulkar, Manoj Bajpai or Tapsi Pannu?
The growing competition for marks creates serious concerns. When a student scores perfect marks, what next? What happens if a student does very well in Class 10th but obtains fewer marks in Class 12? The examination system needs reform. At the same time, the parents do not have to take unnecessary stress and transmit that to the students. Encourage the child to learn at her speed. Board results are just a process, not the purpose of life. The average performers of today could be doing extremely well in the coming years. We have enough examples of that.
It is not easy to always be an amazing performer. Every successful person has failed at some time but our textbooks do not carry stories of failure. The result of a three-hour-long exam cannot be a matter of life and death for a student. Life is more precious than the marks.
(The writer is Adjunct Professor-TISS, Mumbai)
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