First things first, the pass percentage in HSLC exam this year has plunged by nearly 15 percent compared to last year, but thankfully it is not as bad as the guesstimate the State Education minister had earlier made. Amidst the controversy over tightening up the moderation and grace marks policy, minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had said the HSLC pass percentage could plummet to as low as 22-23 percent. Well, it has turned out to be 47.94 percent, the lowest in 14 years since 2004 when it was 49.8 percent. For comparison, it was 62.79 percent last year after a high of 70.71 percent in 2013. After declaring the HSLC results for this year on Wednesday, the Secondary Education Board, Assam (SEBA) was cagey whether more than half the examinees failed to make the cut because of its revised marking policy. However, the SEBA website mentions that after a ‘trend alysis’, it was decided to extend ‘proportiote benefit’ to all HSLC/AHM examinees this year — so that marks moderation amounted to maximum 13 marks for General Mathematics and 10 marks for General Science, Social Sciemce and English. So an examinee could have been awarded a total 23 marks in these four subjects due to moderation; this is apart from 5 grace marks for maximum three subjects each, totaling 15 marks. The SEBA notification explains the reasons for this ‘cushioning’ — due to out-of-syllabus questions, translation errors, digital evaluation of General Mathematics answer scripts for the first time, apart from other errors in marking.
It is thus obvious that without this ‘cushioning’, the HSLC pass percentage could have been worse this year. The Education minister has said as much, dubbing this year’s HSLC pass percentage as reflective of the ‘actual’ result. He has also attributed it to tough measures taken to prevent mass copying, including CCTV cameras installed in examition centres. As the moderation and grace marks controversy has shown, the central board CBSE can be faulted for pushing it through belatedly with other central and state boards, much after the board fils this year. Surely, for a country aspiring to be a knowledge superpower, it is right and proper that its educatiol planners adopt an uncompromising stand on assessing students and ensuring fair exam practices. But doing things at the eleventh hour and then seeking to muddle through the fallout is a disease that afflicts our decision makers, school boards no exception. Hopefully, the SEBA will get its act together by next year with a better handle on the moderation policy, evaluation procedure and holding of board fils. Considering the speed and competitive zeal with which private schools have adapted to changes and equipped students to take exams, their victory march next year too can be taken for granted. This has been the trend over last several years; this year too, an array of private schools, many in small towns, have their students among the list of HSLC rank holders.
This phenomenon is more pronounced in the Higher Secondary (HS) examition results declared on Tuesday. Ramanujan Junior College, gaon has achieved stunning success this year too with six rank holders in Science stream and one in Arts stream; its Principal has revealed that instruction is continued even during summer and winter breaks, and more importantly, the average 8-hour rigorous classroom teaching removes the need for tuitions. Or take Pathsala town with eight HS rank holders, seven of them from two private institutes Krish Kanta Handiqui Junior College and Anundoram Borooah Academy. From the reactions of their successful students, the picture emerges of private academy magements and teaching faculties pulling out all stops to train their students for board fils in mission mode. The Education Minister and SEBA authority have on different occasions vented their displeasure with teachers of government schools, that the teachers shirk work but demand pay raises and other benefits frequently. The teachers in turn complain of being overburdened with non-academic chores, poor facilities and overall neglect from the powers-be in Kahilipara and Dispur. As this blame game goes on, more and more students are knocking at the gates of private academies; the trend will doubtless grow stronger this year. Several organisations including the AASU have been voicing suspicions of a deep-seated, long-term ‘conspiracy’ by sections in the State government to filly withdraw from school education and hand it over to the private sector. But allegations and excuses count for nothing, it is performance that matters. Private academies are setting the pace, they are instilling work ethic and exam smartness in students. Any institute, government or otherwise, must draw appropriate lessons to remain in the fray.