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Reducing significance of exams can help tackle India’s broken education system, NEP will help

Campus Voice is an initiative by ThePrint where young Indians get an opportunity to express their opinions on a prevalent issue.

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Last week, Delhi University’s cut-off list was released and it surprised the entire nation. An absurd percentile of 99 or more is now required to get admission in 30 of its courses. In a certain college, a student is required to score 100 per cent in Class 12 board exams to enrol in a course. All of this tells us or rather reminds us how broken our education system is.

Instead of searching for a better way to filter students for admission, we need to come up with solutions that will not get us into such an absurd situation in the first place.

The problems are deep-rooted in our system as well as our mindset. We Indians believe that after Class 10 board exams, if a student is not able to choose the science stream, he or she is a complete failure. If you are not able to pursue engineering or medical after your Class 12 board exams, then again you are a complete failure.

Students are forced into few selected streams, which they are not interested in. As a result, they end up doing poorly. This also leads to high unemployability among our youth.

Here are some of my insights as a student in this education system:

Reduce the significance of exams

I am not saying completely eliminate exams but we have to work on reducing its importance. Educational institutions need to provide a 360 degree report card. Practical knowledge needs to be given utmost importance. Other skills such as communication and social skills should also be given importance. I have seen students, with very high percentages, not getting through a job interview simply because they lack these skills.

Typically, students in engineering colleges have very high GPAs (grade point average) but zero practical knowledge as they are more concerned with mugging up the syllabus rather than gaining any practical knowledge. They fail most job interviews, as a result. The system is to blame here.

A 100 per cent doesn’t really matter in the industrial world. Of course, if you have practical knowledge as well as a high percentage, you will be given priority, but with no practical knowledge, percentages are merely numbers.

A report by Skills India states that only 57 per cent of our engineers are employable, if you take a look at more such studies this number dips gradually.

Another incident that highlights the undue importance of exams is when Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray cancelled final year exams due to the Covid-19 pandemic but Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari revoked the decision. Now, both of them have decided to conduct exams in the MCQ (multiple choice questions) format.

A research-based assignments or some projects (from their respective field) or any other creative method of evaluation would have been more fruitful than exams. We would also have a better and skilled workforce if all co-curricular activities were considered for admission.

Everyone also needs to understand that getting less marks and ending up in a not-so-good college doesn’t really mean the end of the world. There are innumerable instances of people who did not do well in their academics, did not go to a good college but are still doing well in their life.

Some essential requirements for schools and colleges

In my home city Pune, there are many engineering colleges but only a handful of them are considered good colleges. This puts a lot of stress on these colleges as lakhs of students apply for a few thousand seats.

As a result, the cut-offs of these colleges skyrocket, just as it does with Delhi University. The rest of the colleges simply don’t have adequate facilities such as proper and well-trained staff or the latest equipment, which the other good colleges provide their students with.

The equipment (such as computer) to student ratio is also very bad and the technology is outdated.

The government should ensure that every institute maintains a proper campus area, proper staff and the latest equipment. In short, the government should ensure that proper and efficient colleges are established in our nation.

Indian parents need to get over science stream obsession

This problem also lies with our mindsets. During the internet boom, our parents’ generation saw engineers become successful and earn a lot of money. And they still believe that you have to become an engineer to be successful, even now.

Everyone wants you to pick a stream based on your percentage, rather than your interests. If you score above 80 per cent in Class 10, you are supposed to pick the science stream. If your percentage drops below 80 you take commerce and if your percentage is below 60 you are worthless and take humanities.

If students are allowed to pursue their interest and not forced into choosing a particular field, the pressure on that particular stream and the good colleges affiliated to it would also lessen and no such absurd cut-off of 100 per cent would be declared by a college.

In fact, many parents force their children into taking science and then ask them to pursue engineering. And because of this, the number of engineers produced in India each year is greater than that in US and China. Furthermore, since so many students want to pursue science, there is cut-throat competition for admission into science colleges.

Students and parents need to realise there are a lot of wonderful career choices besides the science stream. Children can take humanities and still be successful, they can become wonderful architects and even good journalists.

All these streams can also lead to successful lives, and educating students about different career options will provide our nation with a diverse workforce.

NEP 2020 a welcome change

The National Education Policy, approved by the Union Cabinet in July this year, has a grand vision. It takes into account all the arguments, which I have mentioned above and attempts to tackle it.

How NEP is eventually implemented needs to be seen, but the prototype is quite progressive. It eliminates all streams and allows students to take two different courses such as physics and literature, which is not possible today. Also, the stress on exams has also been reduced.

I find it quite funny that the Maharashtra Governor was so adamant in conducting final year exams that he personally intervened in the matter, while in the very next month, the central government unveiled the NEP that specifically mentioned reducing the importance of exams.

The NEP will also allow foreign universities to set up their campuses in India, which will eventually give tough competition to the Indian universities and force them to provide better quality education. This will also boost our GDP, as students who were planning to study abroad will now study in the same university in India.

How this policy is implemented will be seen only with time, all we can do is hope that this policy has the best outcome.

Omkar Shinde is a student of Government Polytechnic Pune.

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