BHAMY V. SHENOY writes: If one looks at the newspaper headlines on SSLC pass percentage and stratospheric marks of the toppers, one may conclude that our education system is alive, well, and thriving.
But is this a true reflection of the reality?
Ask any good teacher or prospective employer on how our students are performing. The response will be uniformly negative. Why are we then exposed to this farce every year when SSLC and PUC public examination results are published?
Soon after the publication of SSLC and PUC publication examination results, both newspapers and school managements are keen to publish the list of rank-holders and highest scores though the government stopped announcing ranks few years back.
Just about every educationist knows that our testing methodology is not capable of judging students purely based on marks and that too scored in one examination. The public examination system instituted from the times of Macaulay is criticized by one and all.
Still why do we continue to give such importance to marks?
Is there any significant difference between a person scoring say 620 versus 610 in terms of academic excellence, or his ability to create and innovate, or her ability in terms of contributing to society, or their knowledge of the society’s problems and their ability to solve them?
What do marks in any examination the way they are conducted today show? At best they show that the student has taken the trouble to study the subjects and has some understanding. At worst they show that they are good at attending coaching classes and learning by heart to answer questions.
No doubt, marks an “objective” way of assessing the students though it is not clear what that assessment amounts to.
In recent years, even the much-admired Joint Entrance Examination system for selecting students to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) have come under fierce attack from some concerned IIT professors, IIT alumni and even from Industrialists.
S. Muthuraman, managing director of Tata Steel and an IITM alumnus, had questioned the capabilities of IIT students selected based on such a JEE system.
It is high time we stopped giving importance to the test results of one public examination and start debating the need for the replacement of such an inhuman and unproductive system of assessing our students and also the education system.
How many more students have to commit suicide, dejected by these examinations before we change the system?
Pratham has been assessing the educational standards of children in rural areas since four years and has brought out the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER).
The following table for Karnataka compares the recent glowing SSLC results against the dismal performance of rural students based on their ability to do subtraction by those in standards 3 to 5.
# In Mandya district where SSLC test results show that 83.78 have been able to clear the public examinations, only 41.2% of the children in standards 3 to 5 are able to perform simple subtraction problems.
# In Bidar only 28.5% of the children in standards are able to perform these simple subtraction sums.
# In Mysore, it is only 32.5%.
What do these statistics tell about the kind of education we are imparting to our future generation?
A few years back, Mysore’s indefatigable educationist Dr. H. A. B. Parpia had organized a quiz to assess the general knowledge of students in several schools of Mysore and what he found was shocking. Most students could not answer simple questions.
His conclusion was that because of the compulsion by parents and teachers to score high marks, students are forced to take recourse to learning by heart. These are the very schools now boasting of 100% results and having graduated toppers from their schools.
I tried to promote a novel experiment ofcalled True Education to ignite the critical thinking of students and motivate them to ask questions. Mysore University Syndicate member R. Guru too has been trying to promote this strategy even offering funds to those who will take this challenge.
But there has not been one school which has showed any interest to take up this offer.
It is a well recognized problem in our schools that students hardly ask any questions. Even worse teachers also do not encourage students to ask questions. One of the objectives of well-rounded education is to make students to think, and motivate them to ask questions.
Why are schools which boast of 100% examination results not interested in igniting the critical thinking capacity in their students? We need a revolution to improve our education system which for all practical purposes has collapsed. Let us not get carried away by high percentage pass in public examination like SSLC.
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>> Still why do we continue to give such importance to marks?
So other kids can also can wave around IIT certificates when they enter politics. huh.
Just when we should be questioning and investigating why and how the pass percentages in Karnataka in SSLC and PUC are not anywhere nearly as high as our wily, uncouth, anti-national, anti-social neighbours’ – along comes ol’ bhamy arguing that our pass percentages in fact, should be lower!!
Far too long has the scam of kooked up pass percentages in our neighbouring states gone unnoticed and uninvestigated. Can somebody explain to me precisely how Kongas can manage 90+ pass percentages in SSLC and PUC but Karnataka can only manage 40-60% and worse every year?!
This scam does not end with SSLC and PUC. It carries on into Degree courses also. How is it that the brainiest topper in Karnataka’s universities (before VTU came along and remedied it somewhat) would manage about 70-75% (lesser if it was Electrical or Mechanical), but Konga Nadu’s toppers routinely log 90-95%?!! En engineering andre LKG UKG keTToyta?!
Can somebody explain to me how random guggu gamaars from our neighbouring states manage to infest fairly reputed engineering and medical colleges in our state while our own don’t get to infest theirs?
All this surely has nothing to do with great-world-famous-IIT-certified “visionaries” like the ones at Murthy angadi hiring people based on the very same “marks” that the author is lecturing about? It surely has nothing to do with Konga HRs in these angadis getting ‘clearance’ from their superiors to harvest flock from some God-forsaken Konga university before they came calling at our UVCEs and RVCEs.
Or does it?
If you want to really talk of Macaulay and what he did to our society, please take the time to read this, the best ever written on this subject:
Was Pratham’s data mostly for Kannada medium schools? If yes, what is your prescription for improving education in those schools?
Getting students to contribute to the society has never been an objective of the Indian education system. Everything stops at contributing to the family. We see so many “rank holders” every year, and what happens to them? Even those who continue to do well choose to bother only about their families and are totally apathetic to the cause of the society. And this post-independence mentality that the country will be taken care of if everyone takes care of his/her family is what has led us to the mess we are in today.
Social sciences are not given the importance they should be. This, of all the subjects taught in schools, is the leader when it comes to the concept of excelling(in exams) by rote learning. The teachers themselves, even in the “good” urban schools, are not “educated enough” when it comes to the social sciences – they themselves see it as a collection of facts and nothing else. History comprises only of what happened in the pre-independence era. 60 years is long enough a time to consolidate on the events following independence and an outline on the challenges of contemporary times. Civics tells us what exists, but fails to inspire the students to question the merits of a bicameral legislature, or a Parliamentary system, for example. Economics is synonymous to learning by heart the five year plans, with absolutely no emphasis on what each scheme meant, or what was successful and why. If all this would crowd further an already crowded syllabus, then there should obviously be a thorough refurbishment of the curriculum with emphasis on the concepts rather than just throwing a lot of facts at students.
The main flaw in the whole system is that education is India is more to do with building careers than with building minds – schools brag of having 100% results and 20 rank holders every year, but do they brag of having alumni who’ve been successful in various walks of life? And for building a career, questioning is not necessary, as abundantly illustrated by all our rank holders. This needs to change.
Very pertinent piece by Mr. Shenoy.
This is an issue I keep thinking about. We (in India – not just at a petty parochial level) have dumbed down our education levels to such abysmal depths. This exam-oriented method has not only caused children to lose all pleasure in learning but they are being set up for failure in life. Critical thinking is not at all encouraged. And when we see these stratospheric pass percentages across India, I can’t help but cringe. On another note, these children are made to think that they are really good whereas reality is something else.
I was glad that the government took off the rank system in Karnataka – but the newspapers still follow up. I can do little more than throwing up my hands in despair. I can teach my children – but that’s about it.
This comment is becoming too long – I will probably blog about it a little later.
Pratham data does not refer only to Kannada students. However it is a study done all over India and only in rural areas. If any one is interested to see the entire study they can go to http://www.pratham.org. It reveals a sad story about our entire education system.
I am glad to find out that many of you have been able to easily grasp the main points I am trying to make. The earlier we realize that our education system has collapsed, the better prepared we will be.
Incidentally it was because of the initiative of MGP, Karnataka government stopped declaring ranks (some parents were upset) and also started the policy of giving copies of the marks sheets.
Good, discussions should go on and it is the parents who are ti be blamed. A graduate applying for the P G seat had filled in the apllication like this.
Probably he expected that only meal will help him! Our teachers as well as parents -majority – never bother about continuous learning and assessment, in schools and at home.
In our current education system, the focus is on “covering” a lot of topics rather than uncovering them.
Last year, I had a look at SSLC science textbook (Kannada medium). In topics related to “vidyunmaana”, the terminologies like “viroodha” “arevaahaka”, were so confusing that only a Samskritha panDitha with prior knowledge of semiconductor devices will be comfortable reading it.
I agree with the post.
The thing is most probably same throughout the India and not necessarily the the Karnatka only. Especially in slums, the condition is even worst and also the education needs to be changed, not exactly changed but completely overhauled. Government schemes are seemed to be collapsing at every step.
With the latest intakes from the HRD ministry, like removal of the 10 Boards, but the exact condition can only be evaluated only once the system and schems go live.
I am foreign student taking BSc. in University of Mysore. My college -PUC & Degree – is probably the worst of them all. I knew more when I came to Mysore nearly 3 years ago than now, almost near the end of my Degree! I finished Hi-school in Canada, done some college there so I was familiar with the Canadian education system. My first day at college here was a shock for me.
What is shocking about colleges in Mysore is that the whole teaching system is made to pass you the University Exams. Nothing else. I remember once our Principal gave a welcome speech and he said, “Don’t try to cover any material out of syllabus, rather just learn what you need to pass and get your degree.” He clearly meant, to those who knew the system before hand, only to memorize the Q & A for the exam and pass. This frosh-men welcome speech turned out to be how every teacher conducted their classes for the two years that is now passed.
I learned nothing new. But I seem to get good scores! Every semester I learn stuff and by the beginning of the next I remember nothing of what my syllabus was the one before, let alone remembering anything else.
If I take one memory out of my college and all three years of the BSc. Degree it is this story.
A Prof was lecturing students about different kinds of pollution. (Environmental Studies – prerequisite course which no student seemed to care about) Then a very observant student asked the Prof a question in which the Prof replied, “Be Quiet, …” Then the Prof turned to the students and said, “See? Noise Pollution!” Of course, the female student got embarrassed and she never again asked a question to the professor for the remaining of that semester. This goes to show you how discouraging the lecturers are. How can any student ask a question when he or she gets discouraged or rather embarrassed.
I belief that the major reason behind the teachers lack of enthusiasm to guide the students to teach themselves is the lack of marks given to them. Out of the 100% per subject, college teachers can give out 20% only. Now when they break the 20% portion to assignments, practical experiment labs, internal assessment tests, it becomes to small a piece to throw around.
In comparison, Canadian college/university teachers have 50 to 60% to lure in the students’ participation in class and in extracurricular activities. For instance, they can give out 10% for attending class, asking questions, or showing the willingness to be part of the class. IE, Class participation, 10%, Mid-terms 30%, Quizzes and Assignments 10%, Projects 10% – and then the final Exam can be 40%. Now, tell me what student who wants to learn wouldn’t benefit from such a marking scheme, as suppose to 20% everything you do in college for the whole semester, and 80% a two hour exam. What if an emergency happens to you and you can’t attend the exam?
So here are some things I learned.
1. Attend classes only to secure 75% attendance so you’re allowed to write the exam
2. Don’t bother asking questions when the teacher does not understand them and not able to give you the correct answer. Rather, sit and be quiet and nod your head like you know what they’re saying in half-English half-Kannada lecture.
3. Be sure to memorize the Q & As for the Final Exam (one three Hour marathon)
4. Be Friendly to all the lecturers so they can give you the lowly 20% of the final grade.
THE WHOLE EDUCATION SYSTEM NEEDS A OVERHAULING, We continue with the education system introduced by Macaluay, who said in the parliament that I am introducing education system in India to build clerks, such people who are devoid of thinking. He is successful, as today we fail to understand what is right and what is wrong, we cannot even generate a debate on changing the system of education. The so called Phds create a bigger problem. Strange, surpriing, a country of fools of 128 crores and still growing in number of fools. The entire development of child takes place in first ten years, and in country like India these precious years are wasted in making him fearlul, meek, discouraged to think, discouraged to question. Teachers are those who do not get Job elsewhere. Teachers are not by choice. Children produced are only accidents, and not planned. Chidren are not a responsilility but a play toy for parents. Despite all, there is ray of hope, this information technology will bring about a big change.