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Our Exam Obsession

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  3 Jun 2017 12:00 AM GMT

During the last few days, most of our newspapers have devoted much front-page space to the school fil or HSLC examition results. This year, the percentage of successful candidates is down to 47.91, the lowest in 14 years. It is a way of saying that more than half the candidates deserved to fail—something that militates against what is deemed normal for any developed society. Our obsession with examition results, marks and ranks is more a matter of habit than anything else, considering that our testing procedures are not always valid or reliable. Even so, the HSLC examition is important in our scheme of things. The results of the HSLC examitions determine whether a student will be able to pursue higher studies. For a large number of students who are uble to think of higher studies, the HSLC examition results determine the scope for less ambitious employment or the need for altertive vocatiol training. However, the students who propose to pursue higher studies are most concerned about how the examition results will affect their future prospects. Equally concerned about the performance of their students in the HSLC examition are the schools, since their reputations as teaching institutions are so directly linked to examition results. As such, there is good enough reason for the results of the HSLC examition getting a pride of place in the local newspapers. They are turally full of news about all the main achievers, their study habits, aspirations and so on. In recent years, newspapers have justly highlighted achievers who have come from extremely poor backgrounds or who have had to support their own education with manual labour. It is their success that is the most inspiring and heart-warming for everyone.

Performance at the HSLC examitions has undergone some significant changes over the years in respect of the schools attended by the major achievers. Until about a couple of decades ago, the major achievers in the HSLC examitions came from the government schools. This was when the State did not have many private schools. So, almost all meritorious students went to the local government schools that generally had the best teachers. In recent years, however, most of the major achievers have been from private schools, many of which have adopted English as the medium of instruction. The medium of instruction is still rightly the mother tongue of the students in government schools. Today, most of the meritorious students stay away from government schools. The large-scale migration to private schools is largely because the best teachers are no longer in government schools. Over the years, there have also been large-scale corrupt practices (like nepotism) in the recruitment of mediocre and sub-standard teachers for government schools. So the better teachers are now in private schools. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that all meritorious students should prefer to study in private schools even though the medium of instruction is English and not their mother tongue. The government must take full responsibility for two facts of life that have led to a very rapid deterioration in the standards of teaching in government schools. One is that the government has seriously compromised with the recruitment of teachers of government schools. The other is that the role of politicians has been a major factor affecting the decline of government schools. Politicians who are generally not qualified to have anything to do with education, have had a major role in the recruitment of teachers of government schools. And the results are there for everyone to see. As long as the system is uble to prevent politicians from having anything to do with the selection of teachers or with education, the standards of government schools are bound to decline further. The day is not far off when only those parents who cannot afford to send their children to better schools will get them admitted in government schools. It is high time the Education Minister of the State gave serious thought to the factors that have led to the rapid decline of government schools and took purposeful steps to keep uneducated or less educated politicians from having anything to do with the selection of teachers or other matters related to education. As long as we have politicians meddling with education, the fate of education and of government schools can only get progressively worse.

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