“The students who got A plus in all the subjects in the recent Class X examination (SSLC) did not get their sought after admission to plus one” – this is a recent controversy in Kerala in the education field. It is also a matter of national controversy that students from Kerala secured admission in 99% of the seats in some colleges for degree admission in Delhi University based on their Plus Two marks. It is important to think deeply, whether this situation is due to sudden rise in the standard of education in Kerala or the faulty evaluation process. Marks were replaced by grades, to save our wards from the mental stress of unwanted competition and Marks. The declared policy is that the child should be evaluated through 80% written tests (TE) and the remaining 20% through continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE). The written test in science subjects should be 60% and 20% for practicals. The strongest criticism that comes up is that the system itself supports manipulation of the scientific principles and methods of evaluation.
For the past few years, 20% CCE has been the means of awarding marks. None of the schools follow the guidelines. Government is not serious enough to comply with the guidelines. Moreover, by giving full marks, the State Government is trying to highlight the success rate of schools and build up a pseudo image for the state. This attitude is to make the children as happy as possible by giving marks. Criticism on this has been heard from many quarters, especially from the part of educators; but totally neglected.
Corona lockdowns have significantly affected education. It’s not a state issue, not even national, but global. Political repercussions in Kerala will have a major impact on the efforts made to ensure that online teaching reaches the maximum number of students and that the results are announced through examinations. It was the political support and manpower of a section of teachers that persuaded the government to act with political malice, dispelling criticism. At the same time, the government viewed the opinion of a large section of the people as if it was not democratic etiquette to criticize the government in the wake of the Corona crisis which the Government considered as a license to exercise any of their policies as per the whims and fancies of their political heads. Elections and party conventions held in violation of the Corona protocols have paved the way for the uncontrolled spread of Corona in Kerala. Markudana Mahamaham (Festival of Gifting Marks) was taken to stage to cover up its ugly image and failures.
If we take the total students who appeared for Class X examinations in Kerala under different streams, 69546 are under the CBSE Board, 7787 under ICSE and 4,22,226 for the State Board. At Plus two level it is 37104, 2775 and 446471 respectively. All the boards have declared an average of 99% success at both levels. Let it be understood that it is generally due to the special circumstances of this year. But the number of students who got A + in all subjects in the State Board is astonishing. The number of such students in the 10th exams has increased from 41906 of last year to 1,21,318 this year. At Plus two level, it was 18510 last year and 48,383 this year. This threefold increase in both the levels indicates that even when the online education does not work properly, the quality of education has gone up. This is where the credibility of the board exams and evaluation in Kerala came under criticism at the national level itself. It cannot be rejected without a facelift. An impartial introspection can help future plans for betterment.
This high performance of Kerala Board students is never reflected in the national level competitive or entrance examinations. Performance of Kerala Board students in both NEET and JEE examinations conducted at the national level even in 2021 was not better than that of other state or board students. The same is true even for the entrance examinations conducted by the Kerala Entrance Commission for various courses for students in Kerala who have passed the qualifying examination under various boards or streams. Let us take a look at the results of the entrance examination conducted for engineering related courses in Kerala. From among the 73977 students who appeared in the KEAM exam this year, 47629 students are qualified for it. Out of this rank list 13841 students are from CBSE stream, 1144 from lCSE and 32180 are from Kerala State Board in their plus two examinations. 464 students are from other board examinations including NIOS. They may be from abroad also. When we consider the top five thousand in this rank list, 242 are from lCSE (21.15%) and 2602 are CBSE (18%). The State Board share is 2112. That comes to 6.56% only. The students from other streams are even 9.48%. Analyzing the rank list upto 10000 or 15000, it can be seen that the share of students who qualified through the Kerala State Board examination is increasing. This not only reflects the discrepancy in the evaluation process but also the quality of the education.
What are the shortcomings of Kerala Board Examination? Where did such a big fall happen? The government, which went with the heroic argument that the class was conducted in the context of the corona, was not prepared to listen to the teachers, educators and other dignitaries. It was forced to embrace reality in the final stages when children physically came to school. The syllabus, which ought to have been rearranged at the beginning, was cut short only at the last minute, just before the exams. The announcement of an alternative system of double questions for the exam had brought some relief to the mental stress of the children. Whereas, through several rounds of nationwide consultations CBSE could announce the most appropriate evaluation method. It was not completely false proof, but it was transparent and scientific. The cancellation of the final examination and the publication of the evaluation method were generally accepted by all. The emphasis was on turning children's mental conflicts, protecting their rights and at the same time not giving chance for institutional manipulations to boost up their results. But in Kerala, due to a kind of malice, the examination was conducted in a frightening atmosphere and it was closed down. The consolation of offering questions for double marks was used to highlight the image of the government by giving unscientific marks in the evaluation process. In an examination of 80 marks, questions were given for 160 marks. Instead of considering the child's best 80 marks questions and calculating the marks based on those answers, the child was given total marks he/she scored through all the questions he/she tried to attend. This actually led to a doubling of the mark. Most of the children scored above 90% marks.
As per the Kerala Entrance Commission, it was initially decided that the admission process for engineering degree in Kerala should be completed in two allotments. But when the process was completed, only about 20,000 students were admitted. More than 30,000 seats are vacant. An allotment has also been made as an attempt to resolve it. Even after that, the seats are sure to be vacant. At the same time, a large section of students are overzealous to study humanities from universities outside Kerala. Doesn't this show that even though they have passed plus two with good marks in science in Kerala, they do not have the confidence or aptitude to join engineering courses or science subjects? This depicts the deterioration in quality of our education and the manipulation carried out in evaluation. It also calls for the failure of +2 level course planning. It is a fact that Kerala is trying to cover up quality degradation by donating corrupt marks granted in violation of all principles of an examination. By this, the government is trying to cover up not only quality degradation, but also the learning gap that occurred in this era of Covid. It has set up an immoral precedent giving a bad message to youth and children of the state and the very credibility of our education system itself will be adversely affected.
It is in this context, that many people look at Kerala State Board with suspicion at the intrusion of students in this year's degree admissions in Delhi University. In 2016, when the admission process was completed with 100% cut off marks, only 3 Kerala Board students got admission. By 2019, the number has increased to 208. The fact that this number rose to 2300 this year is more worrying than pride. This is more than 95% of the total students in many reputed colleges. Moreover, due to the special admission system of Delhi University, the total number of seats allotted by the University is outnumbers by these marks. It is natural to have doubts about the evaluation and mark donation in Kerala when we see the trend of students gaining admission in this way. Even an allegation of a political agenda behind it, cannot be blamed. Generally Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and western UP Students depend on Delhi University and its colleges. It is anticipated that this issue will force policy makers and planners in Kerala to think more deeply about the planning and quality of education, rather than the concern of local students who are deprived of opportunities by the gushing number of Malayalee students who are not proficient in Hindi or English.