Improve system


The results in the recent CBSE examinations once again bring to centre-stage certain important questions about the deep-rooted flaws in the education system. The welcome news of government schools in Delhi performing better than private schools in the Class XII results, registering a pass percentage of 90.68%, up from 88.36% in 2017 was matched by the comparatively poorer performance in Class X, which went for board examinations after a gap of several years, revealing that change in systems can upset the apple-cart. Delhi school education success story is a result of pain-staking and consistent effort by Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party government through huge investments and systems of monitoring in government schools. The stark difference between the Class XII and X results shows that the private schools still hold monopoly over the tricks of the trade. The private schools are better placed to have access to new pattern of examination, primarily paper-setting and the evaluation system, giving them an edge as new reforms are introduced, for the better or worse. Overall, there are two things that the Delhi results signify. One is that the government schools neglected for decades have the ability and potential to come at par with private schools if there is a political will. There is need for central government and state governments to sit up and take note of the successful model of Delhi and emulate it in rest of the country with suitable localized modifications. Second, is the more intense question of learning and assessment practices within the education system which have reduced education from a matter of learning to a matter of skill. The levels of information and understanding are not assessed as much as the ability to answer questions with perfection. The increasing number of students who are now getting marks above 90% and almost 100% begs the vital question of whether the intelligence quotient of students is reaching a new high or whether the education system is turning students into mechanical robots through its focus on rote learning of a huge syllabus. This system puts tremendous pressures on students who are turning into over-pressurised unhappy children, pushed often to depression and even suicides. The country grappled with the same concerns about a decade back when the then UPA government introduced the new system of evaluation that mixed examination with Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation to discourage the emphasis on rote learning and ease the burden on students. Unfortunately, without any scientific assessment, the system has been scrapped and the Class X students have been pushed back to the rigorous system of focusing solely on the marks oriented examination system, where perfection is ensured only through mechanical rote learning. Knowledge is reduced to information and conceptual clarity or deep understanding of subjects is missing as the entire orientation is on scoring marks. Parental pressures to excel and compete have further added to the burden. As thoughtless of the NDA government’s decision to rollback the slew of measures to ease the burden on the students is the move being mooted to reduce the syllabus of Class X. This will limit the curriculum, not ease the burden. Besides, reports have revealed that the NCERT was not even kept in the loop while making these announcements. The government needs to shun these piece-meal knee jerk reactions. Instead a holistic approach is required based on scientific assessment of the flaws in the present education system, particularly with respect to CBSE. Three things need to be taken into account – volume of information, the manner in which it is taught and manner in which it is assessed. The government needs to tackle all these three components together. The information load needs a reduction but focus has to be on comprehension levels and critical engagement with subjects and assessment should not encourage a rat race for marks but a hunger for knowledge and love for learning. Another imperative before the government is to ensure that while tampering with the information pool in text books, it is not done with a desire to change its political and religious texture to suit a saffron project. Already hundreds of changes have been affected in the NCERT books in pursuit of that ambition. Let education not be politicized but its system be made better, improved and student-friendly.