The first time I met you was before the 2014 General Elections in India. Your confidence and an almost-jubilant mood that day, followed by the stupendous rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the country and Maharashtra was a good omen for “vikas parva” (progress era) in my view. As young as I was back then, I wish many a times I had free access to you, so that I could have a discussion about the several transformative ideas that keeping popping into my head and learn a lot from you in the process. However, I shudder at the thought of the pressures and stress you go through every day and silently pray for your success in a noble yet selfish way.
I recently completed my Class 12 (Higher Secondary School Certificate – HSC) in Maharashtra. I have studied in the state board for the past 12 years and the journey finally came to an end. Having gone through the system, entirely and recently, I feel there is an urgent need to transform the system, in order to make Maharashtrians more competitive. I wish to bring to your attention four main points. I hope you take my points positively and implement what you deem to be perfect for our state and hence our nation.
The Maharashtra State curriculum has been consistently and intentionally watered down. In an attempt to push everyone over the line, we have created a façade for ourselves. The number of students passing Class 10 examination (the Secondary School Certificate (SSC)) is huge, yet we account for a large, unskilled labour force. We boast of great schools and colleges, yet there is a very small percentage of students that get admitted to top notch schools in India or overseas for undergraduate and post graduate programs. To give you an example, 26 students from my school passed the SSC with 90% or higher. Yet I observe only 2 to 3 of us have secured admissions into top colleges or universities. If I compare these statistics to my peers in the ICSE, the IB or the Cambridge boards, almost everyone with a 90% or higher is going to the top colleges around the world. This observation unnerves me. The state board curriculum is far too easy. For English, an ICSE student reads 9 Shakespeare novels to score well whereas the state board students read a single out-of-context letter written by Vijayalaxmi Pandit. For Math, when the world uses Hall and Knight for Algebra, we are stuck solving repetitive and watered down versions of the same problems. Our schools need a well-structured curriculum. I plead you to introduce back the rigor in the schooling system that has previously produced greats like Lokmanya Tilak and Agarkar.
Lack of Flexibility:
The state board curriculum covers extremely limited breadth and does very little to add to the depth. The diversity of subjects included is extremely limited. Important subjects like Political Science and Economics are included just for the heck of it- crammed into the last 20 pages after the History and Geography textbooks respectively. The curriculum can definitely offer choice and flexibility to the students. This also seems to be the reason behind India being the 7th least diverse country in terms of its citizens’ professions. An adverse effect, given this lack of flexibility, is that many students who do not find options for subjects in schools, go abroad to pursue their careers. As one of the many students who felt disheartened at the lack of choice and flexibility, I urge you to free up the system. Please let the students have options to choose subjects that offer variety and depth.
Testing or Examination:
The testing methodologies have repeatedly failed to test students’ knowledge. Given the mass scale of evaluation, examiners and schools discourage creativity. In a history paper, including data points from sources outside the textbook or solving a geometry theorem using a refreshing, new method is frowned upon. I know that a perfect testing method will never be easy to have. But the length to which we are pushing our students to plan examination techniques instead of working on the quest for knowledge is indeed appalling. Many populated countries, like China, use a multiple choice and practicality based examinations in their schools. The Advanced Placement examinations conducted by College Board across the world are an excellent example of how holistically a student can be tested. I request you to instil a system that promotes to students to think.
Another glaring drawback in the examinations is the scale of malpractices. My experience during my recent HSC as well as the SSC examination was harrowing. The mass-scale of cheating and “leakages” left me heart-broken. The invigilators in the exam centres distributed “model answer sheets”. The system is so corrupt, that an invigilator even offered to help me voluntarily! I have maintained my integrity and character throughout my life. However, I am crushed when I realize that the few honest students, including myself, are at a colossal disadvantage.
To be brutally honest, the education ministers and officers are very keen to make bombastic announcements, making last minute changes (NEET examination of 2016) without any regard for the disservice our state board system is doing to the crème de-la crème students who will eventually make the state and country proud.
Necessity of the HSC:
As a student who is studying in the “science” stream of the Junior Colleges, I have always questioned the purpose of the HSC examination. As my classmates and I graduate junior college to attend colleges for higher studies, our HSC marks will be given zero weightage. The MH-CET or the JEE or the several private college entrances are all that matter. The weightage of the HSC marks keeps changing from year to year, which in itself is an appalling situation. I wonder why we spend so much money and resources on an examination that has absolutely no relation to a student’s future? Why does no one want to simplify the examination puzzle? Why do we push students from our state to take a million examinations to prove that they are worthy of one admission? My solution to this is to introduce one uniform test for everyone across the state. It could even be a combination of the MH-CET and the HSC. Let one examination, conducted all over the state uniformly, have a say in the college admissions across all courses. This will eliminate the confusion of the weightage or importance of an exam and the state could save on money and resources, which could be diverted for the benefits of students and teachers alike.
I know that I have no experiencein administration or politics. Hence my suggestions and observations may be naïve or incomplete. However the facts (as experienced by students like me at the ground level) and comments from many leading teachers and educationists suggest that there is a need for revamp. Besides I feel a personal connection to you as my CM and my state. This gave me the courage to speak my mind. I am proud to be a budding voter of this state and would like to contribute in my small way to initiatives such as these (education reforms is my favourite).
Look forward to hearing back from you.
With Warm Regards,
Images: Courtesy various newspaper clippings