Comedy of Errors
Save education from official apathy
BOSE RESULTS BY DR.JAVID IQBAL
Aping the advanced education systems of the West in assessing the worth of students as they take their tests, practiced by many states in India too has had the Board of Secondary Education [BOSE] get into a comedy of errors and the officials-education minister downwards into several somersaults. Mere aping in an effort to make results a fairer assessment of students does not help, unless there is a trained staff to handle the change. The way it has been done is proof enough, if proof is at all needed of official sloth at all levels-road repairs with the top coming off faster than it is laid, traffic handling which leaves people praying for a safe return home, deforesting getting to a level where there is little hope of bio-regeneration, the state of water bodies-people take it all. The lives have been played with of several generation-tolerances though taxed to extremes, hold. What people cannot take is playing with their children. On the evening of 11th January, as it started sinking in, there were frenetic telephone calls-relatives calling each other, friends discussing what had happened. I got a call from news agencies to comment-words failed me, I felt choked at the state of our wards!
I have seen the grading system operate in the West and Middle East, where I have lived for decades. I have seen my children, my grandchildren rushing in home with result cards in their hands-beaming, jumping showing me their grades precisely marked, without an iota of doubt. And yesterday, I had my nephew call me and in a broken voice asking me to figure out the results for him. I couldn’t figure it out like many in the valley, who see failure after failure of official machinery, live with it and push on with their lives, hoping to shape a world where future might hold for their wards a different promise, a happier world than what they have experienced. And here you have the shock of the system, which doesn’t work-a system which merely apes what others do and comes up with what Greater Kashmir headline marked-a ZERO-I might add a big ZERO, the oriental SIFR, the Indian SHON’EE!
And here is how the education minister explains it “We have introduced Grading system for secondary classes so that the students don’t feel any kind of mental stress and strain. There will be 9-Grades for the students as per their percentage in the exams. For instance, the students, who will secure above 90 percent marks, would be allotted A-1 Grade while A-2 Grade candidates will fall in the category of 80-89 per cent. Likewise, the last category of students will be of those candidates, who would have less than 20 percent marks.” That is what Education Minister Peerzada Muhammad Sayeed told a news conference, the details of which I got from scanning of several papers on the net on the morning following the gory episode of the hacked results appearing in wee hours of morning on 11th January and getting announced officially later in the day, despite the result slated to be announced as per some reports, a day later on Wednesday, the 12th of January. However the leak may not be taken seriously, cyber crime is a worldwide phenomenon, though it needs to be probed, while heightening secrecy in the sections dealing with paper setting, assessments and results.
We might applaud the minister for introducing the system, but who is going to provide an explanation of how it worked? Here you have Sana Fayaz, bearing roll number-881239, registration number-n 09302020129, declared as having failed in Science (theory paper) with E grade. Interestingly, the website shows the overall grade of Sana as A1 with 495 marks obtained out of 500. However in Science Subject, her grade has been shown as E1 (below 20 marks). Beat it if you may, the same Sana Fayaz daughter of Fayaz Ahmed of Presentation Convent School Srinagar bagged the first position with 495 marks. So, at the very top you have an ‘Alice in the wonderland’ even this pride of her parents is finding it tough to figure out the results. And here you have a minister telling “We have introduced Grading system for secondary classes so that the students don’t feel any kind of mental stress and strain.” There indeed seems to be room for redefining stress and strain, in the light of minister’s statement. How would you define, what Sana down to scores of other students feel about the glaring contradiction in the marks allotted, the percentage calculated and the grade awarded? If it is not strain and strain, which the minister talks of taking off-what else, is it? Is there an answer?
There is a problem the minister or even others in our generation, me included, fail to take cognizance of. Gene enrichment with each generation is a scientifically proved fact, more so with the galloping advances in science and information technology, kids like Sana are much more intelligent, much sharper too, than we ever were! They are out with their calculators, their lap tops, palm tops and desk tops in a flash and they do size up what we the oldies provide them with in a jiffy. Politicians the world over prefer people to forget than remember the promises made to them. At least in this trait, in this preferred calculation of politician, we could place the political echelons of J&K state at the very top. The older generation could be taken for a ride, as they were not vested with what it takes materially and mentally to prove the politicians wrong. Not so, with the younger generation. They have the means to get to you faster than you may imagine. This is what we fail to comprehend, more so our politicians-the degree though varies-some perpetually, some occasionally. I wish I could place the echelons of our educational system in the later category than the former; it pains me to see them in the former more often than not. Not on one count alone, but on multiple counts.
Hypocritical! Yes, I cannot put it otherwise, where you have the head of executive-the Chief Minister tucking away his kids to elite schools, an education minister putting his ward in city’s top private school and his cabinet colleagues, the sons of bureaucrats, of legislators doing likewise and looking for the best coaching centers; you have them sermonize people-the teaching community, the students, the parents to strengthen the public educational system and finding faults with the private coaching centers. The very coaching centers, where they love to see their wards coached. I do not blame them; I would do the same, given the means, there is hardly anyone who wouldn’t? Taken, there still are deprived sections of the society to take care of in J&K state, where lop sided development, an uneven growth of the society is a norm than an exception; however do we seem to be attempting to do the bare minimum to see to their comforts. The public school buildings, the pot holes in class rooms, the unpainted walls, widows without glass panes do carry a promise, I might admit-the promise of disease! These pot holes, the walls which have not seen a fresh coat of paint for years are rich reservoirs of growth of bacteria. These schools carry a health hazard. Whether quality education is provided in these schools or not, that is besides the point- what is definitely provided is disease.
Private coaching centers were unheard of, when our generation was in schools-precisely because it was not needed on so many counts. The teachers would give their best in class rooms. Two, our generations did not need break breaking higher grades to get into professional colleges-the medical college, the engineering college. Three, for the majority, it was not affordable. So many of those qualifying as doctors, some surprisingly top grade specialists had barely passed 10+2, then called F.Sc. With my marks just touching first class, I was placed 18th in merit list in 1963 with just 17 placed in first division amongst those who opted for medicine. You could only dream of it these days. Let us face it, private coaching cannot be reversed. The higher income groups with their influence peddling, their weight in how official machinery moves would see to it, that it is left undisturbed. We may not try to overhaul it, however ways and means to improve the educational avenues of the deprived needs to taken up as a priority, that is where massive investment is needed rather than attempt the impossible-the winter schooling!
Tailpiece-my grandson rang me up from England a few days back during school hours, taking note I asked ‘how come you are not in the classes.’ Pat came the answer ‘home, grandpa, I am home’ and ‘how come you are home during school hours’ I retorted’. ‘Cold grandpa, it is intensely cold, schools are off’, I have been to that school, minister, it is centrally heated!
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]
(Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Dr.Javid Iqbal is HoD-Operation Theater Technology Tahira Khanam's Paramedical Sciences Institute, Lawaypora Srinagar. He is a freelance columnist)
Lastupdate on : Thu, 13 Jan 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 13 Jan 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 14 Jan 2011 00:00:00 IST
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