This is the season for the board examination . Everybody is trying for 100%. Parents are psyched and the children are stressed. Specially when we hear that last year a child who got 98% in class 10 could not get admission for the course she wanted in the college she preferred.
But then I can’t help having some contrarian thoughts. Normally, when an examination paper is set there is a sort of algorithm that is used. 50 to 60% questions check the basic level of learning of the topics, 20 to 25% check a little deeper understanding and the remaining evaluate the ability to apply the learning in practical applications and/or the ability to interpret.
When students prepare for the exams, those who just want to pass can afford cursory studies and those who want to do well will have to work harder. The results will more or less be able to differentiate quality and hard work.
Then everybody will not get good marks. But does it really matter? What matters for the admission to next level are, either marks in the board exams or scores in the qualifying entrance examination. If it is the former, then it is not the absolute marks but the relative marks that will determine. If lots of people get 99% cut off marks for admission to the next level may be 97% and if only few get 99% then the cut off could be 80% and so on.
If the admission is on the basis of entrance examination, what is critical is the depth of understanding. Here preparation for a difficult board examination may really help in the preparation for the entrance examination.
Today in India we are seeing competition among the various academic boards (CBSE, ICSE, State Boards and so on) in giving more marks to more students more than strengthening the learning process; sort of academic inflation.
If I use an example from economics, the country cannot make every citizen richer by printing money and distributing. It has to strengthen health, education and infrastructure, it has to provide guaranteed titles to property, it has to ensure rule of law, and it has to empower people to build on this.
If there are lots of aspirants who don’t get admission on account of poor marks, the solution cannot be found by giving everybody more marks. The solution is to have more colleges. Dilution of standards and liberal valuation just provides temporary elation and is almost like a peg of good whisky!
True education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.
- Albert Einstein