The myth of high marks
This is the time when school examination boards have announced their annual exam results and the students are applying to different colleges for admission. Delhi University colleges which witness 80 per cent of CBSE students applying for admission usually keep the cut-off marks very high, somewhere between 95 per cent and 100 per cent. Those students who have scored a high percentage of marks in their school examinations get admission in their desired course while those who could not make it in the cut-off list fail to get a seat in the regular programmes. They either seek admission for distance mode programmes or choose another university. In the absence of a robust and effective higher education system in the country, a majority of the students pursue simple BA and MA degrees which do not prepare them for the job market while those who could get admission to skill-based professional courses find it easy to be absorbed in the industry. Delhi University has 56,000 seats for its undergraduate courses. In 2011, Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) had declared a 100 per cent cut-off for B.Com (Hons). In 2014, three colleges had declared 100 per cent cut-off for Computer Science (Hons), and in 2015 two colleges had declared 100 per cent cut-off for Computer Science (Hons). Going by these admission trends, it is not surprising to see why there is so much craze for scoring high marks in school examinations. It directly helps the students secure admission to an academic programme which has greater job prospects.
In the race for scoring top marks, students have to study hard, take assistance from teachers and tutors while their parents patiently pray to God. Based on the high percentage of marks obtained by the students, schools are rated for the quality of education they impart. The astronomically high percentage of marks that the school students are able to score in their board examinations indicate that both the students and their schools have maintained an extremely high standard of academic pursuit. Similarly, the growing number of students scoring a high percentage of marks indicate that the number of extremely bright students is growing phenomenally. But, the question paper leak incident in this year's Class X and Class XII CBSE examination shows that a network of tutors, teachers, and others work behind the scene and try to influence the examination process. While the HRD Ministry and CBSE have said that they will introduce a foolproof examination system, educationists point out the need to introduce a much smarter assessment system for school students. Does the high percentage of marks obtained by the school students truly reflect their extraordinary merit or does this reflect that the assessment is too simple and structured in a manner that can be mastered easily?
If the higher education system in the country is ineffective and awfully short of required infrastructure, the school education scene is no brighter and needs overhauling. There is a huge difference between the quality of education imparted in government and private schools. Different state governments have adopted their own curriculum. The learning outcome in these schools is very low. High drop-out rates and lack of grade-appropriate learning outcome create a bleak impression about school education in the country. In the past decades, private schools have mushroomed all over the country. They range from budget to highly expensive schools, creating inequality in education. There is a wide difference in the educational standards of these schools, which leave some of the students at a disadvantage while others get a headstart. The same disparity is seen at the board-level examinations where students from top schools score a higher percentage of marks compared to students from government and budget schools.
To conclude that the students scoring a high percentage of marks are more meritorious than the students who score less marks will be fallacious, given the disparity in education and different examination systems prevalent in the country. The government is morally bound to offer a level-playing field to all the students and for this, it will have to create a uniform education system where the curriculum and examination system is the same for every student. This will automatically bring about a change in the way admissions are offered to the students at the college level. The current system in which colleges announce a high cut-off mark for admission denies the opportunity to a large number of students to study one's favourite subjects at the college level. This affects their chances of securing jobs when they graduate out of the colleges.