Secondary education of the country is catered through several boards consisting of Central Board of Secondary Education as one of the major body for prescribing the curriculum, standard of education and conducting the examinations to regulate the secondary education. A look at the recently declared results of class X and class XII indicates a good number of students securing close to 100 per cent marks. Statistics show that 13 students of class X standard secured 499 marks, 25 secured 498 marks and 59 secured 497 marks out of 500 while overall pass percentage in full subjects is 91.1 per cent students out of total 1761078 appeared.
Similarly, in class XII standard 2 students secured 499 marks, 3 secured 498 marks and 18 secured 497 marks while the overall pass percentage has been 83.4 per cent out of the total 1205484 appeared students. There has been an increase in pass percentage from 2018 to 2019 by 4.4 per cent and 0.39 per cent in class X and class XII respectively.
Obviously, the increase in pass percentage indicates the improvement in student performance and it warrants appreciation for the institutions involved as well as the regulating board for the effective management of affairs. But a look at the marks secured to the extent of being marginally less than the full marks raises eyebrows.
Irrespective of the stream whether art, commerce, or science, the students capable of securing nearly full marks in many subjects points to either the exceptional competencies or the marks inflation due to inappropriate evaluation tool. The exceptional competencies amounting to near perfection seem a bit hypothetical situation because it is difficult to expect a large number of students becoming 100 per cent proficient in any subject domain.
Exceptional competency with some rare ones can not be denied. Philosophically, the attainment of full proficiency in anything construes as one becoming absolute in said context, but in actuality, there is always a lot of scope of furthering the knowledge in every domain. Therefore, it stipulates certain flaw in the examination-evaluation methodology, which can be either in the rigor level of examination questions, the conduct of examination, evaluation process or some other factor resulting in nearly cent percent performance of the students in different subjects.
It is worth noting that the final examination conducted by the board are external examinations in which its enrolled students from all over the country appear simultaneously and the evaluation tool, i.e., question paper is not by the respective schools engaged in teaching them thereby keeping the sanctity of process intact.
Students securing nearly full marks in such examinations inevitably leads to the requirement of an honest revisit of the complete process of assessing the student abilities at a different level. Apparently, it seems that the questions formulated in the examination are not fairly embedded with the varying difficulty levels and are no more a great challenge for the bright students, whose expectations about the difficulty level in the examination are quite high. Such inflation in marks seems to be the failure on the part of academicians.
Too easy or too difficult questions in the examination eventually make it difficult to assess, whether the respective teaching-learning process is really helping in the achievement of prescribed learning outcomes and if so, then to what extent. The quantitative assessment process of the school level education up to class XII should be capable of candidly assessing student competencies through a suitable quantitative system and keep them invigorated for enhancing their capabilities.
Lowering the difficulty level causes inadequacy in stimulating the students for taking up the challenges in examinations and the challenges of life. The teachers have to set higher standards for the students to hone their capabilities. Otherwise, students will exhibit brilliance to the extent the mentoring community allows them to.
This practice of raising the bar has to be an interminable practice; else the education system will rob the potential of the young generation and may cease the upgradation of civilization. Examination system should have differing difficulty index so that the attainment of prescribed learning outcomes can be assured appropriately.
Teaching, learning, examination, and evaluation should be integrated to capitalize on the amazing capacity of young minds by increasing the thoroughness at every level. The questions in the examination should have a complete spectrum from moderate to hard for increasing the propensity to achieve excellence. The liberal scoring tending to near absolute may yield the dilution of the overall standard of education.
The predominance of coaching institutions has positively affected the competence of students while the formal school system is still reeling in the traditional realm, leading to the levels of examination questions confined between moderate to low and students finding it extremely easy to score. Secondary schooling being the foundation for higher education should realize the potentialities of the current generation of students and strive for making them capable of demonstrating the knowledge and skills to contribute in fast upgrading civilization through the formal education system.
Widespread discussions and debates on the near cent percent scoring by a large number of students should commence among all functionaries of the secondary education system. The regulators, academic governance and academicians should dwell upon the possible implications of marks inflation failing which the worthiness of marks will become questionable. It is high time to invest time and efforts in strengthening the examination-evaluation system so that the overall quality of education is not endangered.
About Author: Dr. Onkar Singh has formerly been the founder Vice Chancellor of Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur (U.P.), the first non-affiliating technical University of U.P. state. Currently, he is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur (U.P.).