Thursday, February 14, 2013

Some uplifting stats and some disturbing musings

Sometimes one is asked to provide statistics to show what we are up to. At times it is donors who want to know but most of the times it is some government agency or the other who demands facts and figures. I guess there is comfort in numbers. Anyway we were asked to provide numbers recently and so an exercise of assessing numbers of students, boy/girl ratio, social profile etc was undertaken. We also decided to find out how many students had cleared their XIIth Boards with the help of project why and how many of them had topped their respective schools. Our first batch of class XII was in 2005. Since then 175 students have cleared their Boards and 13 were toppers in their school. One of our students got 99% in maths! Some may say that 175 kids is not great shakes. But to us it is a number to be proud of, more so because many of these kids were not doing great when they came to us and some were even failures. That they could overcome their failings is in itself a huge achievement. Some of our children even got awards for their scholastic performance and that is certainly something to be proud of. According to their teacher, the class of 2013 is set to bring in more laurels.

That was the uplifting part, now let us get to the disturbing one. These days I rarely get the chance of interacting with all the staff. This is because of my decision of slowly withdrawing from the day-to-day running of the project as the mantle has to be passed on, but maybe I should review the decision. Anyway, quite perchance I spent some time with Naresh, our stellar senior secondary teacher, who has  ensured that every child cleared the dreaded Board Examinations . The conversation began with my asking him how things were after the rather radical changes in the education system. I refer to the introduction of the Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation system and the optional class X. What he told me made my blood run cold. Apparently the new system is nothing short of a disaster in Government run schools. Whereas private schools have evolved their own assessment system, the State run schools have simply taken the easy way out. Prior to the introduction if the CCE, it is was difficult for s child to remain in school after class VI, as she/he needed to perform to be eligible for the next class. Now with the new no fail policy and with a little help from the teacher you can go all the way to class X and even get a certificate without much knowledge. Let me elucidate with a couple of examples. R dropped out of school in class VI.  He was a poor student and unable to keep up. Come the CCE, he got readmitted in class IX after four years. The readmission was done after paying the teacher the sum of 10K rupees. As it is the teacher who marks all papers R has and will get 'good' marks and even pass his Xth though he can barely read! There is another student like R. His claim to success is that he washes the teacher's car.

Some Government school kids are bright and would like to opt for the State class X Board Examination  but they are vehemently discouraged by their teachers. I had written a piece on education which talked about the quality of teachers. The new system seems tailor made for them as it requires very little work. Would you believe me if I told you that in a secondary school in the neighborhood, children who make it to class XI are urged to join project why as the teachers admit their incapacity to teach mathematics. The reality is that without tuition no one can make it, and tuition is expensive, project why however is free!

But it does end here. The Government has instituted a cash reward for teachers whose pupils get 90% or more in their XIIth. Many of our kids have done so and the teachers who did nothing have accepted the kudos and the cash reward. In the case of V who had 90% in many subjects the reward story is unbelievable. Teachers came to his home very early in the morning and told him to accompany them to a function held quite far from his home. He barely got time to brush his teeth. The ceremony was held, the rewards pocketed and V was left like to find way home on his own. Thank heavens he had the sagacity of bringing 50 Rs with him!

The new education changes have widened the gap between the rich and the poor. It is nothing less than shameful and should be condemned in the loudest way possible.


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