Staff Correspondent

District falls to 8th from 4th in SSLC performance

‘Gap between districts is getting narrower'

SSA said to have improved State's education system

MANGALORE: The district's ranking according to the pass percentage in the SSLC examination has fluctuated wildly over the past five years.

In 2005-2006, it was placed 7th, in 2006-07 it was 14th, in 2007-08 it was 10th, in 2008-09 it advanced to 4th and this year it has slipped to 8th in the State.

But even as the Department of Public Instruction is trying to find out why the district slipped three places in the ranking this year, educationist and columnist Aravinda Chokkadi says that there is undue emphasis on the entire ranking system. “The SSLC exam is not an inter-district war,” he says.

Pointing out that Tumkur and Mandya have done better than Dakshina Kannada this year, he says that these districts were always considered backward. “It is not a case of Dakshina Kannada slipping but a case of other districts improving. The gap between the districts is getting narrower,” he says.

Commending the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) for improving the State's education system, Mr. Chokkadi feels that with its special focus on backward districts, the programme has levelled the playing field in Karnataka.

Students in Tumkur and Mandya have now the same facilities as those in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi. “They are showing that they are as good as anybody else. So, why are we feeling so insecure about our ranking instead of feeling happy for them,” he asks. Nevertheless, officials seem perplexed. District nodal officer for SSLC examination Ramachandra Gowda told The Hindu, “Our pass percentage has been fluctuating between 70 and 80 per cent for several years now. We are working hard to understand these fluctuations.”

Mr. Gowda says that even this year's results are very confusing. “Last year, only 22 students from the district scored above 600 marks, but this year there are 57 such students.” Moreover, the number of students getting distinction has dropped sharply. Only 1,428 students have got a distinction this year compared to 1,673 in 2007-08 and 1,994 in 2008-09.

Mr. Gowda says that at the moment, the department has only a few theories for this dip. “There were an unusually high number of private students this year. Although we have no control over them, they do affect our ranking,” he says.

Deputy Director of Public Instruction C. Chame Gowda attributes the change in the pattern of examination for the poor results. “Perhaps, my department failed to spread the information about the new pattern,” he concedes. He describes as “worrying” the dismal performance of government schools in the district. Only 64.8 per cent students managed to pass in government schools as against 82.5 in government-aided and 89.3 in private schools.

Contesting this, Mr. Chokkadi, who is also a teacher at Navodaya Model School in Mundaje in Belthangady taluk says, “I told my students strictly that they must not study keeping in mind the examination pattern. Our focus was on aiding learning not just passing exams.” The Mundaje school, which is meant for SC/ST students, is one of the few schools to have secured 100 per cent passes this year.

According to Mr. Chokkadi, the basic education system is flawed. He advocates a shift to what he calls “a multi-dimensional education pattern” where students are judged on the basis of their talent and not on their proficiency in a pre-set syllabus. “Until we shift to a better system, we will keep worrying about meaningless marks and ego-boosting ranks,” he says.