Written by Mradula Singh, Founder NexSchools, Updated on 28 July 2020
Class 11th admissions to CBSE schools are now setting a new trend predominantly a race for securing admission in the Science stream. Is it due to inflation of marks in the 10th board exams? Or is it race amongst schools to swell their meritorious high achieving students lists?
A child from Pune scores 95% marks in the board exams, celebrations started in the family. Soon they were jolted when they realised that 95% is not enough to secure a seat in class 11th science stream in one of the schools in Pune. The final list comprised 45 students and this child was sixth on the waiting list.
This incident raised many questions regarding how the schools are taking admissions for their senior secondary School Examination or class 12th. It also raises alarm about the inflated marks given to students in the CBSE 10th board examination. For one school alone the 45 students who made it to the final list secured 96% or above.
The city has 135 CBSE affiliated schools but few of them have 11th and 12th classes. Most schools in Pune are affiliated to state boards so the few good schools of CBSE have full houses in recent times.
So far attention of the media, educators and activists has been focused on class 12th board exam results and it’s cut-off marks to the top colleges in major cities across the country. The negligent attitude towards the reforming 12th board examination which is the sole criterion for admissions in the most sought after courses in colleges has gone down to the 10th class board results, it is clearly evident.
It has been worrisome the epidemic of marks race has reached the 10th board exams affecting the children’s mental and emotional wellbeing. No doubt India stands first among the youth suicide rate in the world.
In this time of COVID-19 pandemic crisis when education institutions all around the world are relaxing the admission and providing financial relief, the private schools in India are up for marks race, marketing tactics to increase enrollment, resulting in parents school conflicts an all time high..
The educationists are calling in one voice, as Shalini Nambiar, Founder SN Educational Consultants says, “maks are not an important skill, there is decision making skill, critical thinking, art and sports and so many more a child learns during a decade of schooling. Make all these a part of the admission criteria.” She further adds, “We only talk and we don’t do anything, somebody has to make a difference and soon.”
Rajkumar Sharma, Principal, DPS Jind puts his views candidly, “I totally oppose the duality in the educational system where school heads are directly responsible. One side school heads are educating the educators ( teachers) the new version of Bloom's Taxonomy, which explains the CREATIVITY( Innovation) on top not Evaluation (not Marks), on the flip side schools are considering marks for admission in class 11 as the only criteria for admission.”
There are concerns coming from the educators' fraternity as well. Lakshmi Kumar, Founder Director, The Orchid School, Pune is genuinely worried about placing 99% or 98% as a cut-off for the class 11th admission. She said, “Whole year we keep telling children marks don't matter and on the day of the result the hypocrisy comes laughing on our face. The different boards including state boards are competing with each other, the whole system is working as if it is a race for grade converter leaving no room for social emotional development, peer work and much needed skills for life.”
The trend for preparation of school board examinations starts from as early as seventh or eighth grade for some children and by ninth standard about 30% of the children are enrolled to prepare for the board examinations after school hours.
Don’t blame the parents alone, they are coping with the current trend set by all the stakeholders in the education system out of fear. The yardstick of success for their parenting skills, to break that cut-throat competition for higher education marks and eventually the benchmark for incredible career opportunities. The board exams play the key to all of these. Let’s talk about the role of the school.
Role of School -
Environment of Fear
In many schools, the ninth class sets the environment of fear for board exams. The teachers keep putting up the flag, “you have to appear for boards next year, what are you going to do?”. The weekly PE or sports periods are reduced so even when the handful of parents do not want to put pressure on board exams on their child the school sets the tone of fear for those few.
The schools think their reputation, their secret to increasing enrollment is all about boasting of the exam results of boards in the biggest billboard and hoarding possible in front of the school gate. The school heads flood the social media by posting the board results of top three students with perfect percentile as if the children who scored 93% or 94% are not worth mentioning the effort and the irony is the performance of the most children is shadowed by the schools in the marathon for increase in the enrollment.
Factory System With Minimum Accountability
Ask any parent and they would tell the tale of success of their child, the effort of value for money or accountability comes from the private tuitions and coaching classes who take more responsibility and accountability of the children than the schools. Personalised learning happens outside the school.
A parent of class 10th said, “The schools are run like factories, one size fits all, it is a generalisation for all. In this factory system, a child who needs a little nudge loses confidence and a seed of low self-esteem is sown by schools from here.”
A Child who studied in the same school from kindergarten to class 10th is denied admission in class 11th based on the board result. How does a school justify this?
Internal Assessment Threat
The twenty marks of internal assessment were brought by CBSE to bring a little relaxation for students for 10th board but see the both sides - schools offering full marks in the internal and scores of the theory do not match the theory marks scored by the child. On the other hand, schools making the children work rigorously for 20 marks and threatening the children virtually everyday, “remember your internal assessment marks are in our hands”
Shalini Nambiar, Founder SN Educational Consultants explains, “this attitude of the teachers comes from the top leadership, there is a need for mindset change and sensitisation towards the way we teach and it applies to the school heads and teachers.”
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Pressure from School Owners
There were no school heads who wanted to be named but all said the same thing when contacted, we have little say in the policies of the school, most of these decisions come from the school owners. The high pressure to impress and save their own jobs has led to the school heads and teachers falling prey to this education for marks.
Owners Made Scapegoat of Schools
There are shrewd tactics to pull the creme de la creme of all schools from the city in class 11th so the school can swank the high achievers who cracked the most sought after professional exams like IITs and medicine. The schools are offering scholarships to students to the club of 95% and above. If you are wondering what’s the catch? Dig deeper and you will understand the strategy. The club 95% and above children were not a part of the school they were groomed to thrive by some other school but this school offers scholarships taken credit for their meritorious achievement.
In this process, they dumped all the children who might have studied in their school for 10 or 9 years from class 1 or 2 or maybe from kindergarten. These children have contributed both tangibly (monetarily in building swanky infrastructure) for years and intangibly too in creating school’s credibility; these very students are thrown away to find admission in some other school.
Digging deeper on how private schools are launched is the topic of discussion for some other time.
Looking at the COVID-19 crisis the admission to new schools has no option of fee relaxation but full-term tuition fee along with a head very common one-time non-refundable fee which ranges from anywhere between 10K to 40K.
These shrewd marketing techniques discreetly turned to enrollment increasing strategies for profiteering, corporatization and role models for more privatization in our nation’s school.
Government’s Failure To Provide Quality Education
No doubt the Government has failed the parents in every way to set policies that broadly hold schools accountable for students’ learning in uplifting the face of basic education to quality standards. Governments’ role is persistently negligible in giving parents more publicly financed options so they are not compelled to take private schooling. How children learn, or don’t learn is never a fundamental question in our country.
The quality of school matters enormously if we have to shape the 40% of the population who are under the age of 18 years.Curricullum, textbooks, the skills and experiences of the teacher- have a huge effect on learning.
There should be deep delving into alternative assessments for the students. We have to forget the number game and promote creativity and thinking skills. So we should not restrict admission in class 11th on the basis of marks only. We have to provide space for creativity and innovation also told Rajkumar Sharma.
Lakshmi Kumar also emphasises on the rethinking assessment of the board exams to include aptitude and other skills, focusing on applied proficiency rather than just paper and pen exams.
The teachers’ training should be given high value in the schools, adds Shalini Nambiar who firmly believes that teachers must connect with the students and there should be programs designed to teach the Gen Z, the online classes due to the pandemic crisis has brought us an opportunity to reimagine how we teach. The approach towards learning and teaching must change to what I have taught rather than what you have learnt.
This country needs a movement to set the debate for “Education With Quality And Equality” inside the political parties as an election agenda, among the school heads to awaken and break away from profiteering masters; among parents to fear less from the system and be vocal. Why is it going wrong and how can we together rethink education?
Education With Quality And Equality -