As far as students under the Secondary Board of Education, Assam (SEBA) are concerned, the centralized public examition at the end of class X is as big as it gets. Over 3.86 lakh students were examined this year for the High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC), with 62.2 per cent clearing the hurdle. The pass percentage this year is margilly better than last year but not when compared to the five years preceding 2014. However, a moment’s reflection over the absolute numbers of students failing to make the grade drives home a sobering truth. Over 1.46 lakh examinees failed to clear the HSLC this year. Once a student fails to ‘matriculate’ or clear this first public exam, how many times he or she will sit for it again — two-three or maybe five times? With newer examinees coming into the race the following year, eventually how many previously failed examinees mage to pass and how many drop out of the system altogether? Whether Assam, or any other State for that matter, can contemplate such a colossal wastage of human resource year after year — is a question that all concerned citizens need to raise before our school education planners.
It will not do to wash our hands off such so-called ‘inferior’ students for failing to leave high school with minimum proficiency in certain subjects. They must earn their livelihood somehow, and could do with some skills or at least counselling. But vocatiol education has consistently received scant attention in our society, which explains why it has been such a mockery in our schools. Private schools spend all their energy and resources in making academic achievers out of their students, for that success will have commercial value in drawing more capable students and well-heeled guardians. As for government schools, they could not care less. An idea of how bleak the outlook is for failed HSLC students can be had, when we consider that students passing in the third division stand almost no chance in getting more education. Where are the higher secondary schools or junior colleges to take them in? This year more than 94 thousand students passed HSLC in third division, slightly less than those securing second division. At a very tender age, such boys and girls will have to educate themselves and find gainful employment — if they can. They will get no support from the ‘system’ in Assam, no informed guidance whatsoever.
It will not be fair to compare the HSLC with the CBSE Class X pass percentage, but the figures nevertheless tell their own stories. Across the country, 97.32 per cent Class X students cleared the CBSE board exams this year. The Class X boards are optiol, with students having the other option of taking the school-based evaluation test. In fact, the pass percentage this year of Class X school-based evaluation test was even better than the 97.32 per cent recorded in CBSE board-based exam. When the Right to Education (RTE) Act was ected in Parliament, the CBSE also thought fit to introduce the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) system to bring about ‘holistic development among students’. The innovation has been controversial, with many students complaining to the Union HRD minister of finding it stressful to tackle six exams throughout the year. Many guardians also feel their wards need a proper board exam in Class X which can help them assess their performances and prepare better for the Class XII boards. Be that as it may, the CBSE also put in place a post-result counselling feature with a toll-free number for students after the results were out. The system may going two steps forward and one step back, but at least there seems to be some concern for students, both bright and not-so-bright. The focus ought to be helping students exit at any level of education they choose.
In the last few years, the energies of the SEBA have been almost solely directed in holding the HSLC examition as error-free as possible, what with rogue examiners taking bribes to give higher marks and cows chewing up answer scripts. Evaluation has thus been SEBA’s prime focus, but what about monitoring the results to eble students to do better? As for the State Council of Educatiol Research and Training (SCERT), it is debatable how far it has succeeded in giving effective textbooks to students, as part of improving the quality of schooling. Then there is the Directorate of Secondary Education in Kahilipara, almost completely bogged down in appointments and other administrative matters dealing with teachers — thereby having little spare time to bother about how students are faring with secondary education. The shocking waste of human resource in high school fil exams in Assam year after year has thus become nobody’s business. Those who still mage to do well do so in spite of the system, not because of it. With the Assam government failing miserably in this important segment of education, which is in the Concurrent list, the day is not far off when the Central government will step into the picture. With Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) now in charge of standardising primary education across the country, it is a matter of time before secondary education in the State too passes totally into the hands of Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan (RMSA). This may yet be another step towards centralisation of education, but let it benefit our students whose interests have been so far betrayed by their State.