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E-Pao! Opinion - Of those who pass & those who failed

Of those who pass & those who failed

By: Thangkhanlal Ngaihte *


The Council of Higher Secondary Education, Manipur (COHSEM) announced results of Class XII examination 2006 in the State last Wednesday. This is one of those rare moments of collective excitement we can still hope for in our State. Out of the 14501 students who sat in the examination in all the four streams, 5982 passed. That means, 8519 other students, or 58. 75 per cent of those appeared, failed.

Should we be proud of our seemingly rigorous examination standards, which in one stroke, stopped a majority of our higher secondary students on their career-tracks and ordained them as unfit to graduate to the next level of their education?

Or should we rather be ashamed that our education system has failed, year after year, to imbibe in the students elementary understanding of what they learn during the year that as many as 60 percent regularly failed to secure 33 per cent marks in their subjects? Is this not enough evidence of the disconnect between what students learn in the classrooms and questions they face at the board?

The feeling of sorrow about this gives way to worry when one considers that at least some of the 5982 students who failed, and who are in the age group of 16 to 18 - the sweetest part of their life - will turn to crime or substance abuse or, fall for the charm and romance of the gun consequent to their being pronounced as 'Failed'.

In fact, this year's pass percentage of 41. 25 is a huge improvement over previous years. The Class X Board result is yet to come and going by past records, at least 60 per cent of the students who appeared in that examination will fail to clear it too. For those who pass, the family's entire resources will be marshalled so he or she can escape from the benighted state for further studies while those who fail will be left to scratch their heads and fret over the year thus wasted.

Whichever way you look at it, this record of dismal pass percentages in Manipur - from Class X Board right up to the degree level - is something that needs to be pondered over. We have been doing with this poor show for such a long time now that most people came to accept it as normal.

It is not.

The pass percentages at the Central Boards (CBSE and ICSE) rarely dipped below the 70 mark. According to educationists, even that is not something to be proud of. Efforts are on at the national level to prune subject contents, make them more interactive, relate them to everyday life and add fun to traditionally intimidating subjects like Mathematics.

Innovative merit grading system which will judge students in various parameters on a continuous basis is being prepared. The aim of education will, thus, be to help students explore their aptitude, creativity and talent in diverse fields and channelise the same for a higher purpose (Which will mean that a student who play Table Tennis very well but just have no interest in Mathematics will not simply be judged as Failed, but avenues explored for him so he can pursue his special talent in a professional fashion.

Education will, thus, not be only about book-knowledge). As it is, the present system of judging students solely on the basis of the year-end, three-hour written examination is on its way out. And for good.

The continued perpetuation of rote-learning at the school-level education in Manipur and much of India is a factor that inhibits the students' growth. The students simply parroted the lines given by the teacher without applying their minds to them. There is no attempt to relate what they learn in the textbooks to their environment. The emphasis is still on formulae, facts, figures.

What is the height of Mt. Tenipu? When did Manipur attain statehood? What is your phone number? These are facts and they are important. But there is nothing in them to engage the mind of the students.

A class VI student may learn them faster than a scientist. A studious boy will fluently recite the various steps taken by the Government to cleanse the Yamuna river.

But it just never occurs to him how he can improvise or apply the same for cleaning a small stream flowing in his neighbourhood. There is no attempt to utilize the mathematical equation he knows so well for calculating tax imposed on commodities bought from the market, for example.

This is, I believe, one reason why many students, who do very well in School performed so poorly when they face the board. This is the reason why 60 percent of the students found qualified and sent up for board examinations flunked.

The catchword in any management school or professional institutes today is Projects and Presentations. The aim is for the students to stand on their own, handle pressures and datelines, gain in confidence and initiative and prepare for leadership roles. And that kind of education is the future. As the saying goes: 'Give your child a fish - he will eat for a day; Teach him how to fish - he will eat everyday.'

Easier said than done, of course. Especially in Manipur. But there is a thing or two we can start doing right away to turn our education system around. Take the case of textbook revision. Class X students in Manipur still read textbooks telling them the yearly produce of a sugar mill in Khangabok or a cement plant in Hundung- many years after these industrial units close shop.

I had previously taught in a school, and I can tell that there is much more to learn from Class VIII textbooks (published by private publishers) than Class X textbooks (Published by BSEM) in the state. Subject revision and improvement can be easily done as the underground elements are not known yet to interfere in it. None of them, as far as I know, have so far demanded that their history be made part of the subject!! What's only needed is the will at the top level.

I am glad, though, that related subjects like mass exodus of students from the state and the impact this have on the latter are getting some attention. Random estimates put out by speakers at the recent Seminar held at JN Manipur Dance Academy, Imphal suggested that as many as 50,000 Manipur students are presently outside the state.

What prompted parents to ship out their wards to other states as soon as they finished Class X or XII is well known. If we are to arrest this trend, we will need to ask hard questions and make painful sacrifices. The education system is part and parcel of the politico-socio-economic structure and thus, cannot be improved in isolation.

So, the issue inevitably boils down yet to that of non-governance, administrative breakdown and well, Ibobi Singh. The Imphal Seminar, going by media reports, did not touch upon the tough issues. Nevertheless, the seminar deserves appreciation for its seminal contribution to the debate.

May it spawn more such exercises!!


Thangkhanlal Ngaihte wrote this article for the Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on May 28, 2006.


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