In 1956, when A G Diwadkar scored 89.6% to top the matriculation exam, people were convinced that this was the peak. Fifty-five years later, 10 students have managed to score a perfect 100% in the state's Secondary School Certificate exam last week. Last year, the government discontinued the practice of announcing merit lists in order to reduce students' stress levels.
However, the scoring percentages have steadily risen to reach a full 100% in 2010. Educationists are worried that marks are becoming the be-all and end-all of schooling due to fierce competition and the competitive mark escalation of different boards, such as the national Indian Certificate of Secondary Education and Certificate and Central Board of Secondary Education, and the state Secondary School Certificate.
In the past five decades, everything from ambitions to study habits has undergone a dramatic change. Diwadkar and Hemchandra Pradhan, toppers from 1956 and 1961, stress the importance of learning and understanding over scoring.
However, Anisha Motwani and Prathamesh Jain, who scored 100% this year, say their marks will give them choices and allow them to pick the college and stream of their choice. "The marks are only a means for me to reach my goal of getting admission to the science stream, which takes me closer to my IIT dreams," Jain says.
"Parental pressure and hectic performance-oriented coaching classes have added to the race," says Sulekha Save, retired principal of Balmohan High School in Mumbai, which has consistently produced high-scoring students. Members of the older generation swear by their dedicated teachers and the idealistic, informal grooming they received. The new generation, on the other hand, chasing marks, juggles private tuitions and extracurricular activities and writes numerous competitive exams to make the cut.