Marks or Farce

This article is the third one in a series that talks about the issues related to the examination system in the country. It first appeared in Keekli Newspaper and can be read here

In this piece I analyze the reasons behind granting high and perfect percentages and how their likely psychological and other disadvantages.

With the Board Results 2019 out recently, a certain new trend has caught the fancy of the country. The number of students scoring a centum in various subjects has risen exponentially and it looks like it is here to stay.

Let us first have a look at some of the statistics this year.

This year around 13 lakh students appeared for the CBSE Class 12 Board Exams 2019. The three top performing regions included Thiruvananthapuram (98.2 percent), Chennai (92.93 percent) and New Delhi (91.87 percent) pass percentage. The highest scores were 499 out of 500.

In class 10, a total of thirteen students shared the top position with 499 marks out of 500. Twenty-five students secured 498 marks and fifty-nine candidates were placed third with 497 marks.

Nine thousand six hundred and fourteen students scored a perfect hundred in Mathematics.

57, 256 candidates scored above 95 percent and 2,25,143 students scored 90 percent and more. So, all in all 2,82,399 students were in the elite 90 club! What perplexes further is that 980 scored 100 in Hindi; 11,627 managed the centum in Social Science; 2827 in Science and 1820 in English.

For the ISC students, the top score was a hundred percent!

If these statistics do not alarm you, then you are living in absolute denial of the epidemic that is fast eating up our education system. The epidemic of marks!

Let us analyse the situation step-by-step. A few years ago, such high scores were unthinkable. This brings us to answering a few questions-

Has the nature of subjects changed? Has the nature of question papers changed? Has the marking system undergone a transformation? Or, finally, has awareness and knowledge and competency increased manifold?

Whatever may be the reason, we cannot deny that this kind of trend is a double-edged sword. While it may be looking at buying relief from cases of depression and harassment over marks, it also leaves us with a system that values marks over learning. An education system where only marks count.

This puts not only students, but also parents, teachers, schools as well as education boards under pressure to excel. And this is not what we want of our education system.

The next important aspect to consider is the focus on key words during evaluation. We are no longer looking at the subject matter or the language used. In order to help students score better, the impetus is on the use of key words. Certain parameters are laid down and if a student meets them, managing a hundred is not tough.

Though it may sound harsh and also demotivating, but the fact is that a centum score is a result of diluted papers and evaluation- both of which have suffered a set-back as far as difficulty level is concerned. How else, would you explain a hundred in Languages or even Humanities. These are the subjects that demand creativity, innovation and sparking of the imagination.

With paper-checkers now content with key-word searches, the idea behind these highly imaginative subjects lies defeated. The individuality of these subjects relies on the subjective approach of students. With objectivity in setting of papers and evaluation taking over, who would bother to present their own points of view. Do our students understand that in subjects such as Languages, there can be varied answers to the same question? Do we understand this as well, or has the system put aside this observation in its run to glorify marks!

Let us now address the issue keeping the psychology of a child in mind. It is too early in life for children to feel that they have reached a threshold. They may simply rest on their laurels and retire satiated way too early in life. Even if this doesn’t happen, they have already reached the pinnacle and as per the laws of probability, their chances of repeating this kind of feat have declined. Even otherwise, such high scores at the University level are not heard of and may not be taken well.

Wouldn’t it be better if we allowed the students to go up the ladder slowly; if we did not set such high parameters in stage one of their climb; if we left scope for improvement for them; if we allowed them the benefit of human error- yes, it is humanly impossible to do a huge set of papers without a single error!

Yes, our children live in better times in terms of technology, parental support, support of teachers, exposure but we still need to look within. It wouldn’t be too long before this epidemic of marks eats up an entire generation.

We have a smart bunch of youngsters here, but what they need are more CHALLENGES. They don’t need easy ways, but they need to move out of their comfort zones so that they can be pushed beyond their limits.

Until then, this system shall remain nothing more than mere farce!



7 thoughts on “Marks or Farce”

  1. Indian students scored badly(ranked 72/74) the last time India participated in the OECD PISA of 2009. Some might argue that it was unfair, both in terms of representation because students of only two states, Tamil nadu and Himachal pradesh were sent and in the test contents which UPA govt argued to not being conducive to India’s socio-economic realities. India is going to participate in 2021, where it would show how the changes in education system has impacted the global ranking. That said, even for 2021 only students of Chandigarh schools are going to participate.

  2. Now teachers and students look for key words in the answers. Evaluation follows a set pattern. If those patterns are matched then the marks are awarded. I agree with you that the essence of the subjects like languages are lost in this melee.

    The intricacies of words have lost their meaning…….. Marks talk not the knowledge

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