Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Monday, May 28, 2012

P U results in Karnataka; Dismal not Great

The recent jubilation over the highest in a decade pass percentage in PU exams set me thinking. I shot of my opinion, and an excerpt from it was published in the letters section in Deccan Herald. Here's the complete, unedited version.
The recent report on the pass percentage in the PU exams of 57.9% made headlines for being the highest in the decade. Is this a matter of pride or worry?  This raises an uncomfortable question of the relevance of the current system. SSLC and PU exams are meant to set a benchmark for the minimum knowledge a candidate must possess after schooling. In other words they test whether the educational system has achieved its objective of educating a child. It is not just a test of the child but of the system as well. A student who scores 57.9 % in her exam is termed mediocre. Then what does one say of a system of education that is proud to deliver 57.9% results?
Somewhere something is very wrong. As a benchmark are the standards set unreasonably high? That is probably not the case. The state government asks for time to bring the level of PU education at par with Central Boards when requesting a delay in implementation of a National Common Entrance. These are Boards boasting of much higher pass percentages. The pass percentage of government run CBSE schools [excluding the elite Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas] in Class XII exams stood at 83.98% last year .The overall passing rate of CBSE in Class XII exams was 81.71% last year. This year’s results are awaited. If you think it unfair comparing a state board with a central board, neighbouring Tamil Nadu had an even higher pass percentage in Class XII of 86.7% this year.

A thorough relook at the curriculum is necessary. Is it teaching what we want children to learn? Emphasis on abstract theory with little mention of practical application makes a curriculum difficult to grasp. Unless a curriculum aims to promote better understanding of the subject, rote learning soon renders it meaningless. A student who gets the impression of studies being devoid of meaning and application looses interest in such an education. The numbers game where marks are all that count, is an incentive for shortcuts. Interestingly Andhra Pradesh Board has replaced marks with grades in this year’s Class X results.

It is easy to blame government colleges with their well known deficiencies in infrastructure and manpower.  Karnataka has numerous private colleges too. Undoubtedly they too contribute to some of these failures despite having better resources. Coaching institutes have proliferated in towns and cities offering to remedy the deficiencies of the formal education system. Students still fail.

Exams test a student’s performance of that hour. A system that includes evaluation of student performance throughout the year will do much to reduce the “luck” factor in exams. This would recognise consistency and provide feedback to both teacher and student about those falling behind. Timely intervention could then help them improve.

Exam evaluators are an overburdened lot. With too many papers to evaluate and too little time to do it, leaves the best person error prone. Great is their responsibility in deciding the merit of a student. Their remuneration must match their responsibility. A student who deserves to be failed also deserves to know the reason why. This would help her identify her shortcomings and improve next time, besides bringing transparency to the system.

Congratulations are due to all those successful. Spare a thought for those who failed. In a system unlikely to change in any hurry, family and friends are the last hope. A family that understands that marks are not everything, will help the child who failed to emotionally cope with a poor performance. A family that is supportive and not judgemental is the best healer for all the agonies of these children. It is to be remembered that no student intends to fail. Post results suicides ritually follow declaration of results. We can but try our best and hope for a better system. A system where no child should feel that life is not worth living.

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