V Pattabhi Ram
It was a toss-up between writing about this wonderful 500/500 in the Tamil Nadu State Board Class X exam or Narendra Modi’s invitation to Nawaz Sharif and Mahinda Rajapaksa to attend the 26 May swearing-in function. Because of the sheer audacity of it, the former, namely the Board exam, won.
First of all I extend my heartiest congratulations to the three candidates who cracked it. A centum in any subject is a great achievement. A centum in each of the five subjects, and all in the same exam, is clearly out of this world. Like they say in the game of cricket a century in any form of the game is a great morale booster.
But I have, at the cost of sounding cynical, a few questions.
We, in the world of journalism, would like to meet anyone who scores a 100/100 in English. Surely, these guys’ grammar must be impeccable. OMG. There are not one or two but 677 of them.
Are there no essay writing questions in exams? Are there no letter writing questions in the exam? Are there no comprehension questions in the exam? If there are, we should surely meet these young guns that write wonderfully well; better than William Shakespeare.
Many, me included, would also like to meet people who score 100/100 in the second language. A 100 in French should make you streets better than a Frenchman. And a 100/100 in Tamil should place you amongst the pantheon of greats, the pulavar variety. We have 255 pulavars. I do hope they speak good Tamil and not TV Tamil.
A 100/100 in mathematics is something no one can argue about. It would be nice if as many students as possible get a centum in this subject which has always been a nightmare for candidates. Sadly, only 18,682 have achieved what was a distinct possibility.
Now, let’s move on to science and a 100/100 in it. Know something? 69,560 candidates cracked the perfect score. Pray, are there no diagrams to be drawn in the biology part of the paper? And in the chemistry segment, are there no questions on the properties of chemicals? It’s gratifying to know that we have people who are exceptionally good not only both in science and in mathematics but in languages as well.
And of-course, a 100/100 in social science is the final icing. Are the questions on history
and geography on the multiple-choice mode? If no, is it possible to bag a perfect ten in a theory question? Like, a student bags full score on a question on the unification of Germany (not that it’s a question out there). And does the same in every other question. He should be an outstanding historian, isn’t? Well, 26,554 people have done it.
A few years ago when a few candidates bagged 1200/1200 in the Kerala Board exams, we all thought this was an aberration. It now looks to becoming the rule, rather than the exception. Now that Tamil Nadu has done it, other states could follow suit.
I think this is a dangerous trend. We are, with this kind of either syllabus and/or valuation, killing the joy of examination and of education. With the standards of teaching falling, with the best and brightest brains not getting into teaching, this 500/500 is, I am sorry to say, the ultimate nail in the education coffin. It’s a mockery that we can do without.
There is an urgent need to revisit our system of education, where anything less than 90 per cent looks passe. There is a need to test not rote learning but application based learning, lest our boys and girls become cramming machines. Already, the deterioration is visible in our engineering schools where our young engineers are no longer employable, and where employed work for incredibly poor salary.
May be it is time to introduce grades and comparative scoring.
First published in the INDUSTRIAL ECONOMIST, June 2014 issue