Even as the class X and class XII State board examitions are on, news has come that the number of examinees appearing for High School Leaving Certificate exam is lesser than last year by over 19,000. Though the number of HSLC examinees has been declining in the previous couple of years as well, this is a sharp drop. The SEBA authority may well consider this to be the outcome of its open school initiative, but there are portents that indicate otherwise. It is true that the open school system has been designed to help class XI dropouts and repeatedly unsuccessful HSLC examinees clear the test. There is no age bar to study under SEBA open school and examinees need not clear all subjects at one go. Rather, the test can be taken in phased manner and the examinee can select the subjects he or she wants to appear for in a particular phase, before moving to the next phase after a gap of 6-8 months. Surely, this was an enlightened step by SEBA — after all, the attrition rate of HSLC exam has all along been very high with some 40 percent examinees failing to clear the class X fils. Even this bad performance could have been far worse, had not SEBA been ‘inflating’ examinees’ marks since 2001 — as revealed last year by State Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in the Assembly. While that revelation triggered an almighty row and led to a marks moderation system, clearly the problem has not gone away and we are likely to hear more of it after the HSLC results for this year are out. A useful fallout was the spotlight coming back to the huge wastage of human resources year after year at the class X fil stage itself. So the SEBA open school — which really got going in 2015 following the success of the State Higher Secondary Education Council’s open school experiment in 2011 — has come to be viewed as a much-needed initiative, for it seeks to help academically weaker students clear HSLC exam without inflating their marks. But it is doubtful whether a large number of students are opting for it in last couple of years, leading to the 19,000 plus drop in the number of regular HSLC examinees this year. Our education planners need to alyse these trends and get the bottom of the matter, or else some undesirable outcomes may well follow. It now transpires that as many as 6 lakh school students from class I to class XII in Assam dropped out in the year 2016-17. Media reports quoting the latest survey by Unified District Information System for Education UDISE, which is under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, should be taken very seriously. UDISE maintains a tiol database on schools of all States and UTs, and the Assam government too can use this database to plan and formulate educatiol policies and initiatives. At a time when there is tionwide concern over the actual status of fundamental right to education for citizens and the government’s commitment in guaranteeing it, the high dropout rate in schools of Assam is surely a worrying development. This could well have an impact on the number of students who filly sit for the class X board fils. Another contributory reason could be the continuing exodus of schools formerly under SEBA to the central board CBSE. Over the past year, 53 schools in the State reportedly switched from SEBA to CBSE. This is hardly surprising, considering that the State Education Minister (also in charge of Fince) himself announced in last year’s budget speech that 50 schools will make this switch. Nevertheless, it signifies continuous erosion of the State’s role vis-a-vis the Centre. This should not happen. Education is in Concurrent List, but the Centre has been garnering greater powers because it forks out the larger share of funds for Sarba Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan (RMSA). There is an urgent need for the State government to overhaul SEBA, on which as many as three committees had submitted reports in the period 2012-13 alone.
Exodus from SEBA