The Tribune (Education) 4 July 2006
— Photo by Kuldip Dhiman
The class XII student today is like Abhimanyu, for whom society and the state have created a Chakravyuha of certain death. This time of the year, newspapers are full of stories of students who fail in various examinations and decide to kill themselves—a measure of how tough it must be for students to handle the stress to which their parents contribute significantly.
The entrance tests create a hierarchy of ranks. You must not only do well, but also wish others ill. Parents teach their children to be secretive, selfish and manipulative. The attributes that get you marks in examinations prevent you from rising in career, which requires the capacity to relate to others and to be able to work in a team.
Parents have this notion that performance in examinations is directly proportional to the hours that you put in. When students working 16-18 hours a day fail to do well, their parents say: “You must not have been studying hard enough.”
Everyone cannot do equally well in tests. If they did, the rules of the game would be changed, as the purpose of a test is to create a vertical ranking.
The system, which so heartlessly drives young men and women to suicide, is itself faulty. Routinely there are instances of questions getting leaked, copying in the examination hall, grave errors in the question-paper, clash of dates, sudden cancellation or when the tests are deferred.
Children of the rich, who fail to get into a good college in India, enter a middle or low-rung college in the USA and do extremely well not only through the college, but also in the later life. This is because elsewhere, the education system is largely enhancing and capacity building, while our system is rejectionist. We have such a large number of students that we do not know what do with them. At every stage, therefore, we create obstacles so that more and more of them fall by the wayside till we are left with a manageable handful.
While we have large-scale unemployment even among the educated youth, sectors like IT and pharmaceutical cry for trained personnel. We talk of human resource development, but are reluctant to leave evaluation to a human agency because of the risks of subjectivity and influence.
The examination system has warped the education system. Over the past four decades, the content in education has steadily gone down. First the laboratory training, practical tests and oral examinations were abandoned and now even grounding in concepts has been neglected.
The whole arrangement of twelve years of schooling with an elaborate examination system has become worthless before a two-hour yes/no type of test, where a mental blackout for thirty seconds can irreversibly change the course of a youngster’s life.
As the stakes are high, parents are ready to spend lakhs of rupees to see that their wards should qualify. Students who get into professional colleges via the cheating route do not stick out. There is not much difference in the calibre of students who make it and those who do not.
The system has its compulsions. State and Central boards have differing standards. State boards, generally, give more marks than the CBSE or the ICSE. If regular school education and board examinations are given suitable weightage, a way has to found to bridge the instruction gap among various boards.
If objective-type entrance test has become an integral part of screening, why should it remain outside the formal education system? Surely, preparation for CET can be a part of the school system. Since private coaching centres are a major player in the leaking game, students’ dependence on these should decrease. If these centres pay a suitable service tax, state education can be easily funded.
The plus-two system needs to be extended to become plus three or at least plus two-and-a-half. Let’s not cram the board examinations with the various entrance tests. Students can first get the results of the board examinations, and if their performance is above a threshold, they can then write the CET.
There may be other worthier solutions, but the system should be changed for the better.