Everyone wants reforms in education but the relevance of those reforms with respect to development will depend only on the nature of reforms.
Kapil Sibbal the HRD minister has shown intentions to abolish SSC examinations. I would say its a very commendable step. But the reason he cites worries me. He says it should be done to eliminate the stress on students and parents.This is completely unacceptable.
I don’t believe that examination causes stress. The real stress is because the extreme compulsion to succeed. For example no once faces that extreme stress while answering NTSE, because success or failure in this examination does not mean end of the road.
The board examination on other hand is important because the marks that we score in this exam determine which stream we will join and in which college. One mark less and we might have to settle with a not so good higher secondary college. Hence each mark is important, hence that extreme fatal stress erupts in the young minds.
The root cause of stress here is the difference between demand and supply. There are thousands of students who pass out SSC with aspirations to go into a good college. There are very few good college. So few that in a state like Goa you can count them on figures of one hand and still some fingers will remain unaccounted. The government run higher secondaries everywhere are considered as the most inferior ones while private run colleges are given preference. Clearly the lack of educational infrastructure is the main cause behind this stress.
As long as this difference would persist competition would be inevitable. If you try to artificially stop the competition, the only other option left is corrupt practices. Say if SSC board examinations are abolished and the examinations are conducted by respective school. Now the school administration will get so much power that they will not hesitate to charge for it. A few years of this game and the HSSC colleges will no more believe in school conducted examinations. Either they will have their own internal examinations which again are easier to rig.
Sibbal is not a fool not to understand this. Hence his next move comes as abolishment of all state boards and have a central board conducting a certification exam for SSC. This examination will be optional. That means the bright students who face the stress of competition would continue to face it, only the exam will change. If earlier it was total marks now it will be higher percentile.
For whom will the life ease? For those who do not plan to study further after 10th. Those who would not pass 10th examination if it was conducted by a board. The school will pass them out of compassion or for money.
Personally for Sibbal he will be able to show that number of 10th pass students in his country goes up over night by 30%. Many applications for government job where 10th is the criteria.
This decision would make sense only if Sibbal has more concrete plans to reduce the demand supply gap. That will be the only way to reduce the stress on bright students.