The CBSE Class X results are out, and the sad thing is that the pass percentages have been falling since 2015. This year’s pass percentage has slipped to 86.7% from 90.95% last year. The pass percentage in 2015 was 97.32% while in 2016 it was 96.21%. The sharp fall in the pass percentage this year has been attributed to the return of the compulsory board exam after eight years when in 2010, under the then HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, the board exam was made optional, a ‘radical’ move, as it was perceived at that time, that did away with the compulsoriness of the board exam at the secondary level in order to reduce stress and lay emphasis on ‘childhood enjoyment’. What happened since 2010 was a downslide in academic standards with students not bothered to take their exams and excel because they would not be required to take any board exam to get themselves evaluated. With both parents and academics grumbling, the Class X board exam is now again compulsory, and hence perhaps the disheartening pass percentage this year as compared to that in the last couple of years. In the Northeast, the situation remains dismal, with a mere 62% having passed the board exam this time in the Guwahati zone that also includes Sikkim – Arunachal Pradesh, as usual, is the worst performer.
But the larger question pertains to something else: What about the reliability and validity of the examination system in vogue, no matter what the pass percentage is? This may be put in another way as well: Even if the pass percentage crosses 90% and the number of students securing more than 95% swells every year, how far is the exam capable of testing a student’s true merit and potential, and of course his creative thought process or ingenuity? Does the test stand the test of reliability and validity? These are questions far deeper than the current craze for marks reaching up to 95% these days even in subjects belonging to the humanities domain. For instance, a Class XII student getting over 95% in literature subjects seems strange when looked through the prism of language skills – both eloquence and flow of words, as well as grammatical neatness. The crux of the matter is that education is something beyond the glint of spectacular marks in exams that have continually failed to test thinking originality. We need to go beyond. Then only would a real R&D regime take shape – so direly needed now.