The 499 marks out of a possible 500 scored by a couple of students in the CBSE Class 12 exam, followed by as high a score in Class 10, and then the ICSE results with equally mind-boggling scores — notably in subjects of the humanities — make no sense in a society where youngsters are increasingly struggling with articulation. While the concern voiced in the media, in general, about the cut-off marks of the University of Delhi for admissions to undergraduate programmes shooting up is practical, the commentary fails to capture the long-term harm this does to the knowledge economy the nation is eager to build. Before that, it pressures the average student whom these very boards once sought to calm by abrogating the system of exams until the secondary level. On the question of logic, it is inexplicable how an explanatory answer can fetch an examinee 100% of marks when no explanation can be perfect. If to get rid of this obstacle, the boards have reduced the question paper to a multiple-choice questionnaire, that explains why this generation, by and large, cannot place five or ten odd words in order to construct a flawless sentence that conveys the intended sense. In the World Economic Forum ranking last year, India secured the 37th position, with Singapore, Switzerland, Finland, Lebanon, Netherlands, Hong Kong and Qatar faring better in mathematics and science.

According to some experts like Ashok Ganguly, who headed the CBSE for the longest period, this all started with an urge to reform the education system to bring the best out of students. While a part of the prescribed changes was adhered to, the successors of Ganguly could not care less about the rest. As per Krishna Kumar, former director of the NCERT, the examiners are not inflating the scores. Rather, those who set the question papers make a hash job of it. The paper pushes a student to regurgitating things learnt by rote to score full whereas students who are innovative or creative with their answers are ‘punished’ with deductions in the marks.

What is surprising, the media, which should ideally be a conscience keeper of society, celebrates these so-called ‘achievers’ year after year. This is as asinine as putting on the front page of newspapers and the prime time of television the names of UPSC exam toppers in a country whose sluggish growth can be singularly attributed to the IAS and State bureaucracy whose heads shamelessly lead lives like feudal lords at taxpayers’ expense. To make India a world power, a fundamental area that must be addressed is education. International institutions hardly care about the percentage of marks Indian students score. The stunning effect of a score of 100% diminishes even within the country by the time the candidate begins looking for a job. It is almost of no value if the person turns to business. All that the CBSE, ICSE and State boards have ended up managing with the sheepishly prepared question papers and grotesquely heightened scores is losing credibility. It is time these authorities switched to an application-oriented system that would judge students on the basis of what their brains would contribute to the humankind.