A statement by Professor Rakesh Kumar Pandey, who has been teaching physics for the last 30 years at the prestigious Kirori Mal College of Delhi University, has sparked a new controversy in academia. He referred to the phenomenon of the Kerala board giving 100% to its students in Class 12 as biased, and described it as a "conscious and well-planned conspiracy to propagate Marxist ideology". On the basis of these highly bloated marks, admission to the desired college and course is ensured under the 'cutoff' based admission process of the country's most eminent Delhi University. He has further termed the conspiracy of infiltration of students from Kerala in DU on the basis of inflated Marks and propagating Marxist ideology as 'Marks Jihad'. His statement has been condemned by many Left wing and Congress student’s organizations, teachers and politicians like Shashi Tharoor who demanded strict disciplinary and legal action against Prof. Pandey. Although some people might disagree or object to the term 'Marks Jihad' coined by Prof. Pandey, but the issue raised by him cannot be termed baseless or brush under the carpet. It is a well-known fact that 'Love Jihad' and 'Narcotic Jihad' are flourishing in Kerala. Therefore, even the possibility of Marks Jihad cannot be ruled out prima facie. A petition in the Delhi High Court against the excessive admission of students from Kerala Board has also been filed by a Chennai based student named Gunisha.
This allegation is further corroborated by looking at the number of students taking admission in the most sought after Honors courses viz., Political Science, Sociology, History, Geography, Economics, Commerce etc. of some of the elite colleges of University of Delhi – Hindu College, Ramjas College, Hansraj College, Kirori Mal College, Miranda House College and Shri Ram College of Commerce etc., in the last few years, disregarding the number of sanctioned seats. This year's case of department of political science, Hindu College is a classic example, wherein the college had to admit 26 students in a course having 20 seats only because they all had 100 percent marks from the Kerala board.
A Left-leaning TV channel (NDTV) has refuted the allegation by providing falsified data of students admitted in Delhi University after the first cut-off. This channel has reported that a total of 31,172 candidates from different boards across the country have got admission. Out of these 2,365 students from the Kerala board, 1,540 students from the Haryana board, and 1,301 from the Rajasthan board had also got admission in DU this year, besides those from other boards. In this juggling of data, the fact that has been consciously under represented is that more than half the seats in the most popular courses in the most prestigious colleges of Delhi University are all taken by the students of Kerala Board alone. Furthermore, more than half of these students of Kerala board who took admission are from Muslim community.
Another important aspect that should draw our attention is on one hand 234 students of Kerala Board have secured 100% marks and 18510 students have got highest A+ grade, while there is only one student of CBSE board that has got 100% marks, this year. Though the number of students appearing through CBSE board is tens of times more than Kerala board. Also, this year 700 students of Kerala Board have applied for Delhi University with 100 percent marks in the Best Four (on the basis of which the cut off is determined) while the total applicants from Kerala Board are 4824 with majority of them having 98 percentile marks or above. The situation is heavily imbalanced in favor of students from Kerala Board and this trend has been on the rise in Delhi University over the last 3-4 years. This year has been no different. Many teachers of Delhi University have confirmed this 'off the record'. They have also pointed out that these students scoring 100 per cent marks have very little understanding of the subject and they face an "unprecedented communication crisis" in the classroom due to lack of understanding of both English and Hindi. Perhaps that is the reason why students who get 100 percent marks from Kerala Board face difficulty in passing Delhi University examinations. These facts make the evaluation system of Kerala Board all the more suspicious.
It is not a mere coincidence that the Marxist ideology has weakened in the last 3-4 years in Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University and there has been a gradual decline in the influx of students harboring this ideology. Thus, University of Delhi is being transformed into a New nursery of Marxist thought. The gradual increase in the votes polled by Left student organizations in the Delhi University Student Union elections in the last few years also points to this. Delhi University is a central university. Students of every state and board of the country have the right to seek admission in it. No one can be neglected or deprived on the basis of region, religion or board. But it is equally true that no one should get the unwarranted advantage of studying from a board or being a resident of a particular state because this results in curbing the rights of other eligible candidates. Example being the students of the Uttar Pradesh Board who have been the victims of the strict evaluation system. If any government is doing this in a deliberate manner to propagate a particular ideology, then it is unfair, objectionable and condemnable. Using marks as the means to propagate Marxism will never be successful and these shortcuts will soon meet its fate. In fact, it is playing with the future of the young generation of the state and its constitutional obligations. This will lead to following of similar practices by other boards as well. Wherein, by giving maximum marks, the board will ensure maximum number of its students getting admission in reputed institutes of the country like Delhi University. This will further push the education and the evaluation system on the descending path. Of course, the students cannot be blamed for this. Infact, they are mere 'guineapigs' of the poor board examination system.
Though the recent controversy may be centered around the Kerala Board or students coming from Kerala, but for almost a decade now, the trend of liberal evaluation and highly inflated marks has been visible in the Central Board of Secondary Education as well as most of the state boards. This situation is indeed worrisome. The increasing importance of mark-sheet in studying, teaching, and life in general has resulted in many unwarranted challenges. First of all, it has taken away the joy of teaching. As the process has invariably become mechanical where focus is on getting marks rather than learning and understanding. This has inadvertently put immense pressure and stress on the students. Over the years, board exams (especially class XII board exams) have become a petrifying experience for both children and their parents. Securing good marks is considered equitable to conquering the fort. If a student is not able to perform well in these exams the parents start to worry about their future and consider it to be bleak. Parents tend to goad their children into becoming marks securing machines as they consider these numbers as assurance of road to success and possibilities, and also as an enhancer in their social standing. Parents are treating their children a means to overcome their life’s failures and unfulfilled dreams. The burden of their high expectations and pressure often results in making children end up as victims rather than success stories.
Rote learning is the dominant paradigm or model of education in India and this is a big problem. There is no leisure or opportunity for the development of creativity, critical thinking and analytical ability in this number-centered system. A whole generation and the whole country is in the grip of this rat race. Lily Tomlin said it best: “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”
It is quite ironic that the success or failure in the board exams justifies the standards of parenting. Nobody bothers about the holistic development of a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs in order to build a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning, and which will in future make him/her a good person and a better citizen. The attention and goal of parents, society, educational institutions and government is to register maximum marks in the child's marksheet. With the increasing importance of marks, parents, teachers, schools and the students themselves are under tremendous pressure of unrealistic expectations. This led to the surge in mental disorders like anxiety, psychiatric problems, depression and the prevalence of suicidal thoughts among the students. The perverse competition to get maximum marks has robotized the students, parents and teachers. Hundreds of students are getting 100% marks in boards. Students who score 100 percent or around, take pride in their own omniscience. They no longer feel the necessary push that drives them forward to learn or do anything new. Clearly, this is a deplorable situation and needs to be fixed immediately.
Recently, the Ministry of Education has approved the proposal of the National Testing Agency (NTA) to conduct a centralized entrance examination for admission to all central universities. Although, this will solve the problem to some extent, however, this would also promote a culture of coaching and rote learning. It is therefore necessary to devise ways and means by which children especially from farflung villages and poor strata of the society will equally be able to participate in this entrance examination. Also, there is a need for wide expansion of quality and affordable higher education to protect the interest of these students. Along with this, there is also a need to promote higher education in mother tongue as this will ensure quality education reaching to more students. Concrete provisions have been made in this direction in the National Education Policy-2020, a change in the offing.
(The author is Dean, Students' Welfare, Central University of Jammu.)