When will our kids start questioning? Don’t ask.

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.

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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?

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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.

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# 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.

Also read: Yella not OK, guru. Nanna makkalu is not learning

Don’t gift them fish. Teach them how to fish

Can Azim Premji do what the government can’t/ won’t?

Yedi is fiddling when namma naadu is burning

Do our netas, parties really care about education?