Rising cut-offs for admission and high expectations from students appearing for the Board exams have made marks as the primary goal of the education in India. Although this is not a new problem, but its impact has been growing exponentially. The biggest indicator of this trend can be witnessed through exorbitant grades declared for CBSE 12th Results over the last few years. The rising CBSE Result scores have seen an upward trend over the last few years and the story is not much different even this year.
CBSE Results and the Marks Menace
This year’s CBSE 12th topper Sukriti Gupta of Montfort School in Ashok Vihar managed a score of 99.4%, which made everyone’s jaw drop. In fact, it has been estimated that approximately, 90,000 students who appeared for CBSE exams, scored 90% or above. 14,000 students scored 95% and above. On the flip side of the coin, scores secured in the range of 85-95% are now termed as average and doesn’t command respect or create a good impression on anyone. In other words, if you want to make it to the merit list for any of the top ranking colleges, you would need CBSE score of above 95%.
Systemic Problems in Education System
While the obsession with marks and grades have become apparent recently, the root of the problem is quite deep rooted in our age old education system. Even in today’s 21st century, India follows the education system that was designed by our colonial masters to suit their needs. During the pre-independence era, the education system was tuned to train students to turn them into clerks and service professionals. To do so, it heavily depended on rote learning. By the very definition, Rote learning is a memorization technique based on repetition. The notion behind this is that one will be able to quickly recall the meaning of the content, the more one repeats it. In our country, people perceive, rote learning as being educated which is clearly not true.
There have been several revisions and additions to the education policy since then, but the core remains the same. The mad obsession with grades and marks which has taken the form of fierce competition today has its roots in this ill-equipped education system.
Learning v Memorizing
One of the biggest ill-effects of the current education system at the school level is that the ‘real learning’ goes for a toss while memorizing facts, data replaces everything else. With marks being accorded to students who are able to reproduce facts and data from the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbook; students do not have any motivation to actually gain conceptual clarity or in-depth knowledge about the topics. There is no curiosity or creativity at work as far as school level education is concerned, as everyone just wants to focus on marks, grades and percentiles.
Sanjeet Ragi, a professor of Political Science at Delhi University once recounted an instance where a class 12 student who scored a 100 in the political science paper, had no answer when she was asked why India is called a republic. Many such examples also came forth this year with regards to Bihar Board Result and Bihar Board toppers this year.
No Need for Real Knowledge
Knowing a subject well and performing well in the exam are two different aspects. If a question paper is not drafted well then a high score does not indicate a good knowledge of the subject, it means that the student has a better knowledge of the answers to the questions being asked. Sadly, the emphasis has never been on understanding, attaining the "real knowledge". If someone can mug-up paragraphs from textbooks and reproduces the same in the examinations, he or she is considered brainy, else declared incompetent.
Need for Educational Reforms and Change in attitude
There is no doubt that education reforms or rather a complete overhaul of the existing education system is needed to resolve this imbroglio of marks and grades. But along with systemic changes, we also need to focus on change in attitude, when it comes to education in the country.
In this age of social media, we end up sharing different posts highlights how marks do not define us or that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates or for that matter the latest entrant to the club Mark Zuckerberg have not even completed colleges but are still successful. Despite this, the innate attitude of students, teachers, parents, peers and society, in general, is using marks and grades as the yardstick to measure intelligence, excellence and success. Until there is an attitudinal change, no amount of reforms in educational systems is going to make it relevant and effective.
Scores Do Not Define Your Intelligence
Over a period of time, the scores, the marks will not matter. What will matter is what people think of you. It is your personality, character and trustworthiness that will help you achieve success in life. Always remember passion and determination will be the ultimate harbingers of success. It is important to realize that marks do not define us. Always remember to discover your passion, foster it and work towards it’s betterment. Realize which subject captures your interests the most. Do not opt for science or commerce just for the sake of your parent’s wishes. Keep in mind that exams do not test originality, imagination, communication and people skills. In fact, these four things matter the most in our later lives. These skills are attained through actual practice and hard work. Bear in mind that whatever you do in life, try to excel in it. Give it your best shot.
“If you love what you do, you will never work another day in your life.” ~ Confucius