The MHRD puts the number of students who enrolled in senior secondary schools around the country in 2011 at around 2 crore.
This year, over one million students will take the annual CBSE Board examinations. The number of children appearing for Boards will more than double, after the MHRD makes it compulsory for 10th graders to take the exam. These numbers make school students one of the largest social groups in the country. They are an important group, but the discourse about them is scanty at best.
The anti-national debates that flare from our campuses in Delhi and Hyderabad make headlines every fortnight. They provoke parliamentary debates and sometimes leadto the resignation of Ministers. The politics of education is just as sexy as politics of caste, Kashmir and ideologies.
The Dehumanising Process of Board Exams
There is another debate, albeit an unglamourous one: our schooling system. There aren’t many takers for the debate about the many millions of children in the country – they are too young to vote and their needs are not political enough.
In less than a month from now, we will witness the annual joke of India’s education system, the CBSE Boards. Actually, the joke is a year-long one. The Board exams are only a culmination of the most dehumanising process we can subject our children to.
One must ignore all the hollow philosophical rants about valuing learning above everything else because this isn’t what the system was designed for.
Twelve years of schooling, according to CBSE, can be and are often falsely quantifiable by subjecting children to five standardised question papers.
And when this is the ultimate certificate of learning, it is common sense to ignore the other lies you are told.
We couldn’t have thought of a worse system, one which presumes learning is uniform to all kids. The current system, of a five-day evaluation process is arrogant enough to presume that flawed human beings can determine the fate of children.
What is The Purpose of Board Exams?
Firstly, why this urge to sublimate learning into bare numbers? Whose interests does it serve? Of the politicians who claim that the ‘learning outcomes’ during their tenures are better than their predecessors? Or of those bureaucrats who want to impress their bosses with enhanced enrolment rates?
Or is it to impress technology companies that tell us our children need to use their mechanised audio-visuals in order to learn better? Maybe it is for those experts of pedagogy, child psychology and teacher training, who bombard us with broken solutions in order to gain funding. It may even be for business houses who run private franchise schools under the garb of charitable societies.
If parents are keen on external validation, and the child appears to agree, then why is there a need to judge all children by the same skewed pattern? One question paper for a million children? Why should we accept this monoculture of a dull learning system? Have we lost the capacity to imagine diverse processes that acknowledge our children as being human beings?
The obsession with ‘standardisation’ can be lethal because it implies that there exists a tool which can be homogeneously used for millions of children. It results in systems that speak a selective language of specific knowledge stock and skill sets that are favoured by those in power. The non-compliant ‘items’ are not even given the right to opt out of this system since it branded as ‘universal.’
In full honesty, the CBSE isn’t responsible. Their certificate or result has no real value. It is like fiat money, which derives all worth from those who give it the authority it has. Thus, those parents who believe in it, the children who look for its approval, and colleges that use it as the prime qualification mark, all share the blame.
We are all being held hostage to the lie that scaling isn’t possible with other alternatives.
Create a Learning Space
The failure of state to provide adequate meaningful spaces to nurture oneself are blamed failure of children to not be ‘competitive enough’.
Imagine if there were five universities with passionate facilitators in every state capital, why, then, would children want to flock to the national capital’s countable colleges, thereby adding to the burden of already strained resources and subsequently raising the cutoffs?
I don’t appeal for a replication of institutions, but for the creation of sufficient, resourceful and authentic learning spaces that can provide real alternatives to children. And when there is an abundance of choice, effective competition pressure will be negligible.
Of course, the fight is about institutional correction, but what about individuals and children who are crushed under the succession of deaf regimes? Should children flee aboard to save themselves?
There’s no running away, especially if you come from a family that is desperate for economic mobility. It is a beautiful trap. Thanks to the visionless dependence on year-end certifications, our children have been robbed of their natural growth-time. They haven’t had any time to read, observe or travel to understand the world and develop the essential skills of their choice.
The charlatans keep feeding them with schemes labelled as ‘market-oriented-job-training,’ or 30-day money-back guarantee courses. Readymade excellence can’t be brought, it can only be organically developed over years of independent thinking.
Here’s a warning for educators, parents and children alike – even when you cannot oppose a ruptured system, do not legitimise it by obediently surrendering to its flaws. Hack it to your higher benefit, but do not shy away from calling it out on its hollowness.
Don’t envy those who can succeed in this rigged game, those who get into the ‘best’ colleges and comply fully to its definition of intelligence. Instead, have empathy for them for they have disowned their inborn genius, and cannot think beyond their vapid cages.
(Akshat Tyagi is the author of '’Naked Emperor of Education', India's first young voice against the dehumanising schooling model. He regularly writes on education, society, and politics. He can be reached at akshattyagi.com. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)