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An A+ for the plain-speaking

A controversial statement made by the Director of General Education, Kerala that even children incapable of reading are awarded an A+ has gathered wide public attention. He stated that telling children they are talented and deserving of praise when they are not is an injustice to them and that instead, they should be made to concentrate on their studies and to score at least fifty percent by studying hard. What makes the pronouncement relevant is that this unpleasant truth was disclosed by the Director, who also serves as the Commissioner of the Directorate of General Education's primary public examinations, the Higher Secondary Examinations and the SSLC. The comments made in the secret meeting of the teachers who were preparing the question paper weeks ago came out the other day. The Director of General Education is to be commended for being ready to do such plain-speaking with facts even in a secret meeting.

The larger community including educationists and cultural activists have been pointing out the harsh reality that although the pass percentage is increasing, the quality of education is decreasing day by day. It cannot be denied that the reason for such a situation is the mindset of governments, schools and teachers who think that the pass percentage should be increased by any means thereby raising their reputation. They cannot escape their responsibility for the change of basic education to the point where the pass percentage is the goal and not the quality of education. There is ample evidence to suggest that certain reforms, such as the DPEP, which moved the focus from the literal to the conceptual, and the liberal use of marking methods, have backfired. The newly adopted reforms are largely responsible for Kerala ranking 18th along with Bihar in national benchmarks that assess schooling, including the National Achievement Survey. Figures from the past few years show that the representation of Keralites in the top ranks of the national university entrance exam CUET, NEET-UG for medical admissions and JEE for engineering admissions has seen a significant decline. Meanwhile, the state takes pride in the fact that the pass percentage in public examinations has been increasing over the past several years. Is there more proof needed to show how hollow our standards are?

All the universities in the state have a large number of vacant seats. At the same time, Kerala's children continue to flow out of the state and even out of the country in search of better education. This is yet another example of quality degradation. The shift from marks to grades and a 'marking' program of continuous assessment with written tests has increased pass rates in our public examinations, but the quality has plummeted. The authorities need to understand that the foundation of higher education rests on lower education and that a fall in quality affects the entire education. A few years ago various directors under the department suggested before the government as a recommendation that to improve the quality of SSLC, education quality should be brought back to the bare minimum but it was rejected.

The remarks of the Director of Education have been dismissed by several people concerned including the Minister of Education. Organizations loyal to the government have also come out with their own justification. It is also being investigated who disclosed the speech that was made at the meeting discussing issues treated as top secret. While all that is fine, the government and educationists should be prepared for further research and analysis of the views raised. Deconstructing educational methods to increase children's competitiveness towards global, or at the very least national is an imperative. Kerala has become the state sending the largest segment abroad for higher studies and employment. There are many reasons for this but the most important one is the education system they follow. The public in Kerala wants to know if the government is prepared to take corrective action after assessing the criticism levelled in this particular scenario by the Director of Public Education.

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TAGS:KeralaHigher educationEditorialSSLCEducation standardDPEPDirector of Public Education
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