Laddoos were distributed at the Sharma household in Punjabi Bagh when their younger son Sanjeev Sharma passed his school leaving examination with 62%. The 18-year-old had made his parents very proud.
Thirty-five years later, he is now clear, he would be elated only if his son manages to score 98% in the Board exams next year. “I will offer laddoos too. But now standards have changed. He won’t get admission in Delhi University if he doesn’t score above 95%,” Sharma explained. His first division was a coveted spot in 1979. However, a student with similar marks now won’t be allowed a place under the sun.
“I think CBSE is creating more pressure on students by awarding such high marks. The way question papers are designed, it seems CBSE is not serious about assessing students. Exams cannot just be a screening test for admission. It’s time to revamp the system,” said R Govinda, vice-chancellor, National University for Educational Planning and Administration. He said the 95% club grows every year but the Board hasn’t done anything about it.
Quoting the Secondary Education Commission, Govinda said, “The examinations today dictate the curriculum instead of following it, prevent any experimentation, hamper proper treatment of subjects and sound methods of teaching, foster a dull uniformity rather than originality, encourage the average pupil to concentrate too rigidly on too narrow a field, thus help him to develop wrong values in education. Pupils assess education in terms of success in examinations.”
The Commission’s observation is still relevant even though it was written in 1952. The love for marks has only got fiercer. “Till a little over 20 years ago, students understood the basic principles of a topic. But now they have to simply tick the correct answers. The whole system is built for promoting marketability,” said Professor Anil Sadgopal, eminent education and former dean, Faculty of Education, DU and also a member of Central Advisory Board of Education.
He said it’s criminal for UGC-funded colleges to declare 100% cut-offs. It takes away the right of students to be treated equally. But it’s the short supply of undergraduate seats that makes the high scores and eventually the cut-offs look outrageous. “We made the paper more objective only to reduce subjectivity while checking. The real problem is that the number of seats in DU hasn’t increased even though more and more students from all boards come here to study,” said a senior CBSE official.
Gautam Sarkar, a senior teacher at Modern School, however said that Board’s policies need not be criticized. Good marks also reflect the hard work put in by students. “They stay up at night to solve sample papers and don’t get up for three hours during which they do not even drink or eat anything. They can access the marking scheme and practice hard accordingly. They have learnt to crack the Boards,” he said.