Atanu Dey On India's Development

Making the 10th Board Exam Optional

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Furious re-arranging of the deck chairs going on as the ship sinks. “The Class X board exams will become optional in all CBSE schools from the coming academic year (2010-11).” (rediff.)

The government on Monday announced that it will introduce grading system in all Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools and make Class X board exams optional from coming academic year (2010-11).

Union Human Resource Development minister Kapil Sibal, during a press conference in New Delhi, said: “Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) supports making Class X examination optional in CBSE system.”

I don’t know what it means to make an exam optional and replace it with a “grading system”. The grading system is “an aptitude exam, which schools can use to test Class X students on their level of understanding in each subject.” What’s the distinction and what difference will that distinction make? I suppose a spade is different from a handy gardening tool with a triangular metal blade and a short wooden handle.

I seem to vaguely recall that the class 10th board exam came under scrutiny because it was a major cause of stress to students and their families. Why the stress? Because the results of that exam critically decided where one ended up. Why was it such a make or break deal? Because the demand for further schooling far exceeded the supply and the 10th exam results essentially did the rationing required.

The problem is that those in control of the entire mess (the education system) are apparently totally incapable of coherent thought or analysis. They cannot distinguish between causes and symptoms, and furiously attempt to suppress the symptoms instead of inquiring into the causes and addressing them.

I find it curious that the permanent link to the rediff item ends in “govt-makes-strong-pitch-for-educ-reforms.htm”. See what I mean? It is as if the government is wise and beneficial and is only interested in fixing a bad system which it has had no role in creating. This attitude is not limited to the educational system: the entire structure of the economy suffers from it. The government creates the dysfunctional economy through its mindless control, and then talks loudly of “reforms” and “liberalization”. Then it mostly comes up with more muddled rules and congratulates itself for all the great changes it has made.

Liberalization is a curious concept when it is promoted by those who do the imprisoning of the system. Only extreme schizophrenia mixed with hyper hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance can explain this attitude.

Liberalization if it means anything at all means freeing the system from some harmful control. One cannot proclaim that one stands for freedom while simultaneously making no moves to relinquishing control and only ordering new controls. Take the latest move: the Right to Education. By instituting that right, the government has awarded itself the right to further tax the people and thus have more control over the education system by controlling a massive purse. As Mr Sibal points out, “that Rs 1,50,000 crore would be required for implementing the RTE in the country and it is perceived that there will be a shortfall of Rs.60,000 crore, as it would be a massive exercise.” We already bear an “education cess” on every transaction — now let’s get ready for more.

The Congress has ruled India for about 90 percent of the time since 1947. The Indian educational system we have today was designed by the British to serve their purposes as colonialists. Seen in that context, the system had to be controlled by the British government and the control yielded the results they wanted. The Congress inherited the educational system (just as it did all the other colonial systems) and found no reason to change the colonial control of it. That control serves (note the present continuous form of the verb) the Congress as well as it did the British. Instead of gora sahibs lording over the natives, it was the brown sahibs. But color is only skin deep. Whitewashing the building does not change its structural elements.

Any improvement of the system must start with meaningful reforms. The most meaningful reform has to be that the government relinquish its control of the system. Otherwise it is a lot of busy work that gives the illusion of reform but ends up making a bad system worse.

{Thanks to Sudipta for the link.}

  • http://oshantomon.blogspot.com baransam

    To ensure every kid gets primary education, government must step in. I guess, Atanu, you will suggest education-vouchers. So that government funds the poor and actual delivery is efficiently done by private players. I myself am pretty impressed with idea of education voucher. However, I have doubts on some aspects of voucher system. Not all my doubts are original. Some of them are sourced from the net. Atanu (or other readers), can you address a these doubts? You may post it here at Atanu’s blog or mail it to me at baransam at the rate of hotmail dot com

    o voucher system doubts:
    o read mike joseph: http://www.sdst.org/shs/quest/vouchers.html
    o What if school is corrupt and gives money back to parents to get students?
    o How do parents judge goodness of school? Gutfeel? Or standard exams?
    o What if parents use vouchers to send kids to schools teaching harmful/ achaic/things-I-hate? Should there be a common curriculum of a school to get voucher redemption? How to ensure that school is indeed teaching the curriculum it has vouched for?
    o Is the voucher system to replace government-schools altogether?
    o What if schools of various religions/caste come up and students get segregated?

  • http://lostparadise.co.in lostparadise

    I have a doubt.

    The RTE bill, doesnt it also mean “people should take only that education, which is being provided by government” ?

    So what if someone is trying to build a parallel system better than government system? Isnt this bill a tool to give a blow to such a budding system?

  • Pingback: CBSE Class X boards scrapped. The Why. « Reality Check India

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