Despite the number of students who score 95% and above in class XII Boards exams multiplying by 23 times since 2008, the education system of India has never faced bigger challenges. The Ministry Human Resources Development is worried by the unchecked rise in the number of over-achievers in the country. Six years back, 400 students were able to score a 95% or above, a number which today is 9,000. This is a clear result of the moderation policy adopted by schools, in order to reduce instances of depression and stress.

However, an unforeseen problem that this step created was the unreasonably high cut off that major institutions set in the last few years. To ensure a fair and uniform method of evaluation, the ministry might just ask state boards to not be lenient while marking the students, but, clearly the problem goes way beyond that. The main problem arises when a handful of students with high marks (no matter how low the average is) end up competing with the majority for admission in premier institutions. Picture this, of the approximately 15 million students that sit for the exams annually, University of Delhi offers 54,000 seats across 70 colleges, which is often the most sought after university in the country.

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Students are often misled to overestimate their skill set and knowledge. (image source: nytimes.com)

The added dimension to this problem deepens the issue, when students prioritise public colleges, instead of private ones. The notion that the degree of a public college hold value of that of private one, along with lesser fee work in the favour of public colleges. However, inflation of marks is a common practice even at the University level. Reasons ranging from funding, grants, result performance and teacher capabilities push the universities to often adjust marks by a margin of 10-20%. As a result, securing a 90% in a premier college in University of Delhi is not difficult today, as opposed to ten years back, where crossing 75% was unheard of. Recent cases have shown that blanket grace marks are awarded to students, and they often get mark sheets scoring more than maximum achievable marks for a subject. These instances reflect the depth of the issue, and how deep-rooted the problem of inflation of marks has seeped.

So to conclude, schools and state boards across the country go easy on students, in order to prevent them from unwarranted stress, but equip them with a false sense of belief of their skills and capabilities in the process. This problem is compounded in colleges, where the college needs to sustain a certain image in eye of the public, and hence opts for liberal marking, letting the student overestimate their knowledge base. This gap is highlighted when the students joins the industry as an employee, and comes as a rude shock, something which not anticipated by them. Also important to note is that this phenomena isn’t restricted to a field or subject but equally prevalent in major institutions. In this process, the education system acts as an agent which instead of increasing the skills and facilitating the transfer of knowledge, prohibits the growth of an individual, right from school. Furthermore, it creates undue competition to the already outnumbered seats in colleges across the country, by segregating the students in categories. Though it is common knowledge that marks are not a true indicator of one’s knowledge, these dangerous trends not only operate on such assumptions, but further them.

Hence, on the surface students are doing well, all across the levels, as they score better marks in school and at the university level, but in reality all that is happening is erosion of the idea of learning, from both the sides. Students assume they know enough, and teachers are supposed to prove it, for their performance depends on it. There really is not one solution to this problem, but the fact that every involved stakeholder needs to realise the magnanimity of the issue, and have a multi-dimensional approach in tackling it. From increasing the number of seats, granting more autonomy, standardizing the methodologies of inspection, undertaking regular audits to sort out the irregularities, a lot needs to be done, but first there needs to be public admission of the practice that is followed by the institutions, for that will set the base for everything else.

This article is based on a post that appeared on Scroll.in on 6-11-15.

Posted by Manav

Figuring out the world, and the self, one choco-chip cookie at a time!

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