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We see in our midst thousands of students who are 'branded' or 'tagged' for life, based on their performance in the SSC and A Intermediate Board...

We see in our midst thousands of students who are 'branded' or 'tagged' for life, based on their performance in the SSC and A Intermediate Board examinations, and the traumatic experiences they A have when failure stares them in the face Come May, and every year it is a kind of harvesting time, time to take home the fruits of your year-long effort, and sadly it appears to be a disappointing exercise for many. Fluctuations and variations can be predicted in agricultural output depending on the factors which influence the yield, be it weather, soil nutrition, quality of the seeds and constant care by the farmers. Applying a similar analogy, government policies, the timely guidance from teachers, the motivational level in learners, the right infrastructure and parental support decide the success rate in the final examinations taken by lakhs of students in our State. Unfortunately, the similarity ends here. We have only seen how an agriculturist feels disheartened when his yield fails; we have not yet developed any machinery like Jagdish Chandra Bose had, to see how each and every plant feels when it fails to yield a good crop to its full potential!
We see in our midst thousands of students who are 'branded' or 'tagged' for life, based on their performance in the SSC and Intermediate Board examinations , and the traumatic experiences they have when failure stares them in the face. They say,' Success has many fathers but failure has none', but if we do not own our failure and treat the system,we are wasting invaluable time, immeasurable economic investment, and manpower as we are unable to bring the kind of progress we dream of. A close look at the 2013 Intermediate results, mainly the first year results, in the backdrop of the 2012 SSC results, has set me thinking, and my focus while sharing my agony is chiefly on the performance of government schools and colleges in the different districts. In 2012 SSC results, while the State average pass percentage was 87.87%, Mahboobnagar district scored 90.61%, Rangareddy 83.07% and Nalgonda 93%, with Hyderabad getting 77% pass results. It is a good result by any standard and it is these students who must have stepped into the Intermediate education in 2012-2013. Shockingly, the first year Intermediate results give a different picture. While the State average pass percentage is 54.60, Telangana districts gave a poor show and Mahboobnagar district figured at the bottom, far below the State average, with a mere 40% pass in First Inter and 49% pass in the Second Inter. Consistent performance and consistent results alone can testify to any child's academic performance correctly. Why did the same students who scored quite well in the SSC examination perform so miserably now? Why the nose-dive in the academic graph? Look into the chasm and we see a muddled picture of ourselves and what the future holds for such rickety, stumbling, discordant system� not a super power status, not even the dignity of a successful democracy� the largest in the world �but a failed one, crumbling and with a bleak future. Can we say, offhandedly and irresponsibly, just to pass the buck, that only one of the assessments is genuine? Who could have falsified the results or inflated the results, and if so, for whom and why? Let us be wise enough not to do so. If the way we are trying to link a teacher's evaluation based on the students' pass percentage is causing havoc, it is high time we gave it up. According to 'The Telegraph', U K plans to link a teacher's pay hike to the students' examination performance, of course based on its own survey, but what I stress here is, we are giving a wrong example and a failed model in democratic education policies if we do not sever the equation. Let us acknowledge at least now that we need to have an integrated approach. Primary, secondary and tertiary education is not three separate chunks or blocks but essentially progressive and integrated; whoever imagined a ladder without the first two rungs holding? Let us stop seeing the process of conducting examinations as an administrative formality rather than a self-assessment tool. If external factors are responsible, let us identify them and how far we can curb the negative factors and promote the good ones. If the underperformance is due to examination anxiety, why did the same students not feel it when they wrote the SSC examination? If there is a difference in the motivation levels, what should we do to motivate? How can we impress that the SSC and BIE are small milestones on the path of education and that a consistent, progressive academic graph sets the pace for higher goals? If the content, the curriculum and the approach to the Intermediate course are different, have we tried to bridge the gap and make the transition smooth for the learners? When students can read more subjects till their X class examination and still score better than in the Intermediate examination where the number of subjects is limited, where is the flaw? Where can we improve to bring the performance of the marginalised sections on par with their peers? Having seen the schools in Vizag district almost regularly over the years, I know at least one of the main reasons for the marked difference in the pass percentage of ST students as against the SC students here. While the pass percentage in 2013 First Inter is 78% among ST students, it is just 38% in SC students. Effective teaching and qualified staff present in ST schools are missing in SC schools. In Warangal, Nizamabad and Rangareddy districts, while the SC pass percentage in residential schools is very good, almost 100%, it is a staggering low 23% in other government schools. All students enrolled, either in the residential schools, or day schools are first generation learners, but the infrastructure and supportive facilities brought the difference. Here the reasons are linked to the day scholar students' economic background � for these children in their teens are considered old enough to earn and add to the family income, and hence they skip classes in search of employment. In the same districts, the pass percentage of BCs is better than that of SCs for yet another reason� parents' awareness and support. The first generation learners from SC communities have only a negative and discouraging home environment while the BC children are fortunate to have parents who, if not literate, are at least those who know the value of education and therefore who offer positive support up to some extent. Public's faith or trust in government schools and colleges is dwindling rapidly, and there is a reason. The scenario of the aided schools/colleges is getting miserable day by day, for schools which were once well staffed and buzzing with academic activities are now mostly like haunted houses with few staff members and fewer students, poor results to speed up the spiraling downfall. It is not surprising that without the vacancies being filled, the pass percentage slides below 25% and admissions also go down year after year. Clearly it is the government policies that are to be blamed here; indirectly what was invested on the schools is also going waste for want of good teachers. Sadly, Vidya volunteers are no substitute for a qualified, regular, good teacher. What we need is more residential schools, regular staff in all schools, necessary bridge courses and encouragement to make the young from the marginalised sections perform consistently well for their own good.
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