Are our State Board churning out students that can’t vault past competitive exams?

Recent reports of Andhra Pradesh and Punjab State boards topping along with the CBSE in contributing maximum number of IIT entrants this year has given rise to such a question.

B. Eqbal, former Kerala University Vice-Chancellor, said this reflected the quality erosion that had set in the State’s higher education sector over the last three to four decades.

He recollected times when Malayali students accounted for as high as 40 per cent of the IIT entrants. But by the end of 1990s that number plummeted. “Now students from other States pip our students in national-level admission tests to institutions in our own backyard whether it is the Cochin University of Science and Technology or the Indian Institute of Management,” Mr. Iqbal said.

He said the stagnation of qualification among the teaching community had rubbed off on the students. Nothing much was being done to improve and upgrade the skills of teachers while not many teachers were interested in utilising the limited available opportunities.

“There is an intellectual stagnation among the academic community. In a society where every other section is being scrutinised, the teaching community is not all subjected to a social auditing,” Mr. Iqbal said.

V. Karthikeyan, former director of Higher Secondary Education, said higher secondary education in the State is now completely oriented towards medical and engineering entrance examination. “Learning is now happening not in schools but in entrance coaching centres. Students are in ICU (intensive coaching unit) from the very first year in higher secondary. These centres provide coaching not teaching,” he said.

Mr. Karthikeyan said the direction of secondary education in the State has changed for the worse with basic science being given a go-by. Things will reach such a situation where our schools and arts and science colleges will find it difficult to get quality teachers.

“Forget about IITs, the number of students clearing the State Eligibility Test for qualifying as higher secondary teachers and National Eligibility Test for becoming college teachers has dropped drastically. This is reflective of the loss of quality in education at the higher secondary, graduation, and post-graduation level,” Mr. Karthikeyan said.

M.A. Baby, former education minister, felt that not enough importance is being given in orienting students towards competitive exams like IIT. He said that school-level awareness should be given to students in this regard.

Mr. Baby said the previous LDF government’ decision to start Institute of Science Education and Research and Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology in the State had considerably improved the situation. But lot more needs to be done, he said.

K.N. Sukumaran, president, Kerala School Teachers Association, accused that there was a deliberate attempt to create the impression that students learning State syllabus are finding it hard to clear competitive exams. “This year’s civil service exams where a Malayali with the Kerala syllabus background bagged the top rank debunks,” he said.

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