There is yet another initiative for bringing about a change in the format of exam results of public examinations. Whether this will happen to the primary education completion (PEC) examination results also is not known. This is because the education boards now busy doing the homework has no jurisdiction over the PEC examination. This public examination is held under the Primary and Mass Education Ministry, a separate cabinet portfolio.
The signal coming from the authorities indicates that the new evaluation system will be introduced from the next Junior School Certificate (JSC) examination. Wonder of wonders is that the education boards are yet to finalise the details of the matter. Initial reports on this issue show that many at the helm of affairs were confused about the shape and structure of the result. It becomes evident from the confusion of grade point average (GPA) with cumulative grade point average (CGPA).
From the moment the proposal was made for bringing down the result index from GPA 5 to 4, many tended to think that it would be like the university exam results. They forgot that in university several class tests are held in parts on the same subject. If three such class tests are taken, the average of the better two are taken into account. At the secondary and higher secondary levels there is no such provision of inclusion of class tests in the final results. So introduction of the CGPA is ruled out unless the entire system of education at these levels undergoes a radical change.
About one thing, however, the education boards sound certain and it is the fixing of the index at GPA 4. According to reports, the number of grades will be increased to 13 instead of the prevailing seven. Then there are differences of opinions also about the highest slot where the top most achievers will be placed. One proposal has it that examinees achieving 90 marks and above be placed in this grade under the title A -excellent, another proposal would like to limit this to achievers of 95 marks and above. Yet another proposal is in favour of deciding the GPA on the division of the obtained mark by 25. For example, if an examinee obtains 75 marks, his or her GPA would be 3.0. Once again, the board authorities insist that marks would not be provided on top of the GPA obtained.
There is not so much problem if examinees do not get marks if the GPA becomes more rationalised. But one disquieting question is, why are the Education Ministry and the education boards so overenthusiastic about the introduction of the index 4-based evaluation system? One explanation is that the move is to adjust it with university's CGPA both at home and abroad. Fair enough! If this is so, why must this be introduced from the next JSC examination, when the slots of grades are yet to be decided?
There is an attempt to give the impression that the secondary and higher secondary education will be deprived of rich dividends unless it is introduced post-haste. Why is the rush? When the GPA 5 index was introduced without preparing question setters and examiners, its severe negative impact was borne by the initial batches of SSC and HSC examinees -the inaugural batch becoming the worst sufferers. The structured questions were not only unfamiliar to students only, but also to examiners as well.
Policymakers in the country's education sector treat young learners more as guinea pigs than the future of the country. Why spend so much time and energy on the system of evaluation and the result index instead of the curricula and the method of teaching in classrooms? That students are compelled to learn by rote from note and guide books, have to rush from one coaching centre to another is nobody's concern.
Executive orders to keep the shutters of coaching centres down during the SSC and HSC examinations may have plugged most of the holes through which question papers get leaked but the psyche of taking advantage of similar flaws has not vanished. Nor could the need for coaching outside classrooms be dispensed with. Unless the need for such extra exercise for achieving top grade results can be done away with, the presence of question paper leakers and the tendency of taking advantage of the malpractice among a section of examinees will remain ingrained.
The focus should be directed to classroom teaching. First, teachers have to be well qualified and enjoy handsome remuneration for their service. If teachers are honest, devoted and love their profession and the curricula are updated to meet the need of the time, all combined together can deliver the goods. In cities and towns, school and college infrastructure may be equal to the task but in villages the situation is dismal. The challenge is daunting to reduce the gap between the standards of educational institutions in urban and rural areas.
With the budgetary allocation still hovering around 2.0 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), taking the challenge does not arise. Education needs far more funds than it receives presently. There is no point engaging with matters that are peripheral. Better make it a point to address the irregularities and systemic weakness that have not allowed education to realise its potential.