Of the 17.6 lakh (1.7 million) students who appeared for the Class X tests in 2019, a record 2.25 lakh scored 90% and above. As many as 57,256 of these, scored above 95%.This number of 90% and above doubled from the past year and this time 13 students lost just a single mark to stand at 499 out of 500.
The 12th results were no different. 13 lakh (1.3 million) students appeared for it and almost 95,000 got over 90% and over 17,000 got above 95%.
If you belong to my generation, the one which went to school in the 1990s or earlier, getting 100 marks in languages and social studies was an unrealistic dream. Yet in 2019, almost 500 students were given full marks in both English and Hindi. In 2008, the number of students getting over 90% rose from about 1.5% of total candidates to about 7.5% in 2019, a five-fold jump in a little over a decade.
Of course, the rising number of “toppers” was a matter of celebration for schools and board itself. Much of attention was also devoted to find reasons and the “guilt” of these students for even losing that one mark.After the results, I got to meet parents who were unhappy because their child scored 3% or 4% less than 100%.In a month from now, the second tsunami will hit these students – when, instead of being judged against a shrinking benchmark they would be pitted against each other in the race for college admissions. That would be another story for another time. But the question which needs to be addressed here is -what is the reason and impact of this grade inflation in CBSE?
To be fair, grade inflation is not just a CBSE issue. CBSE is the most widely spread and gets more attention – but the increasing percentages are felt across all state boards. There is a competition amongst boards (and schools who subscribe to it) to have higher percentages so that their students can find better chances of admission in top colleges which are flatly based on 12th and 10th scores. In a competitive environment, parents use the yardstick of board scores to judge the quality of education.The problem is this competition for better did not follow the hard path of upgrading teaching quality but took the easier route of deflating exam difficulty and being increasingly liberal and forgiving with grading. Examinations were reduced to answering the most simplistic and direct questions than being tested for the ability to solve more complex problems. The result is that, despite all warnings against rote learning, school education today is even more reduced to the task of making students better at memorizing and recalling answers to simple questions. This can be called the Roboticization of Education.