It’s Raining Centums in our Education System!!

The 10th standard results of all boards in India were recently announced. There were celebrations and jubilations in schools and homes and rightly so.

A big ‘hand bump’ to all the toppers. You have worked consistently and worked hard and must be celebrated and congratulated.

But how?

Some school managements do the ‘congratulations’ via Newspaper Announcements, Social Media or both. Also hoardings put up in prominent and strategic locations at the school.

All the 99.98%, 99.97%, 99.96%. The almost there with 99% or a 98.99%.

All of them have a place.

I need to pause and reflect.

Deep within me is a feeling of sadness for all those who also worked hard and consistently, and yet did not make it to the topper’s list — maybe by just 1 percent or 2

Can we spare a thought for all these students who have put in their best efforts and have made progress; yet do not find a mention anywhere, not even on their own school bulletin boards.

A few questions beg an answer;

Why do school managements make a big noise and splash the Topper’s list with percentages on print and social media? Is it a celebration or an announcement to say, we can now be counted among the top schools! Or could it be a marketing strategy? Yes today’s schools do have marketing executives!

What kind of pressure will these toppers face in the future?

Pressure from within themselves to keep achieving at the top level.

Pressure from parents and others to maintain or exceed the performance.

Will it lead to burn out?

Will these students have the time for all their other interests which give them joy? Or will they give up all their other interests?

Will these children now be topics of drawing room conversations?

These and many other questions come to my mind and frustration swells up.

All these students, toppers and all — will they face a selection process or a rejection process! As they seek admission for plus 2!

That is another reason to put the pressure on students, as parents ask, how do we manage to get an admission into a college of one’s choice with the subjects of one’s choice?

Did you notice something else about the results?

It’s raining centums!

A centum in English Literature and language!

A centum in Social Studies and Economics too!

A centum in Hindi / Kannada / French / Sanskrit

And of course centums in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology — not forgetting Computer applications!

Now, you may ask me why I am upset or shocked with the centums, when it is actually a matter of celebration and pride.

Once again I am faced with questions — How are the Question papers set, that answers are so specific and therefore corrected with Mathematical precision.

I spoke to a few teachers who are evaluators for English Literature and second languages. I was told that the Answer Key consists of key words and if the students’ answers have the key words with the right spelling, they get full marks, never mind the structure of the sentence or the grammar.

Let me focus on the objectives for learning English literature and the literature of any other language.

Here are a few:

  • To create an awareness of the value and pleasure of reading good literary works.
  • To develop an appreciation and deeper understanding of important human concerns.
  • To learn how the world works and how we are connected.
  • To immerse ourselves in world’s unlike any that we have seen before.
  • To promote empathy as it highlights the emotional aspects of the literary work.
  • To open up a world of inspiration and creativity and develop skills that are essential for today’s global environment.

Is there place for the assessment of these objectives in the marking of the centum?

I decided to look at Bloom’s Taxonomy in the context of the teaching-learning-assessment process

Benjamin Bloom an American educational psychologist and a group of assessment experts that he assembled began their work to align educational goals, curricula and assessments to be used in schools in 1949. They completed their work in 1956 when they published the Taxonomy of educational objectives.

They identified 6 levels of cognitive complexity to enable educators to differentiate the type of content being taught and make sure the methodology stimulates and develops students higher order thinking skills. It was also to help teachers to think in a structured way about how they question and assess students.

Though there are a set of three hierarchical models covering objectives in the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains, I will limit myself to the most commonly used set — the cognitive objectives.

Here is the original version which made use of nouns as the focal points.

Level 1: Knowledge — A starting point that includes both the acquisition of information and the ability to recall information when needed.

Level 2: Comprehension — The basic level of understanding. It involves the ability to know what is being communicated in order to make use of the information.

Level 3: Application — The ability to use a learned bit of knowledge or skill in a new situation.

Level 4: Analysis — The ability to break down information into its integral parts and to identify the relationship of each part of the total organization.

Level 5: Synthesis — The ability to combine existing elements in order to create something original.

Level 6: Evaluation — The ability to make a judgement about the value of something by using a standard.

In 2001, the original version was revised and is now known as “The New Bloom.” This changed the original nouns to verbs and action words making it easy to execute. There is also an interchange in level 5 and 6. Level 5 is now Evaluate and Level 6 is Create

Level 1 — Remember

Level 2 — Understand

Level 3 — Apply

Level 4 — Analyse

Level 5 — Evaluate

Level 6 — Create

My objective in highlighting Bloom’s Taxonomy is to question the centums.

If a question paper is set with a blue print to cater to all levels of thinking would it be possible to get a 100%? I often hear teachers say that they have included application questions. However, if students solve previous question papers of 5 to 10 years all the application questions are now “practised applications” possibly regurgitating bits of mugged up information with little thinking.

The time has arrived especially if one has to cater to the essence of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, that the policy makers, trainers, educators have a serious look at assessments. Not to forget to carry parents and students along.

How many of the modern day geniuses like Albert Einstein, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet were students who got centum? I think they were mostly average/ above average students who got little recognition in their school and college days.

Here is a quote from Bill Gates himself:

“I failed in some subjects in my exam,

But my friend passed in all

Now he is an engineer in Microsoft

And I am the owner of Microsoft!”

I know that my thoughts may not be your thoughts. I am not against hard work and determination. I also know that there are children who enjoy studying and get high percentages.

However to keep all of us — teachers, parents and students, grounded I would like to close with a quote by Laura Henry.

‘Your exam results do not define you as a person and/or predict your future.’

And that is the truth!

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Phyllis Farias

Educational Consultant with 2 passions in life: the Child — from toddler to adolescent, and Education — education philosophy and psychology