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Time to roll out exam reforms in Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Education Minister Botcha Satyanarayana releases results of SSC Public Examinations 2022 in Vijayawada on June 6, 2022

Andhra Education Minister Botcha Satyanarayana releases results of SSC Public Examinations 2022 in Vijayawada on June 6, 2022 | Photo Credit:  G.N. RAO

The unusually low pass percentage of students in the Secondary School Certificate examinations in Andhra Pradesh this year is worrisome. Only 67.26% of the total 6,15,908 students who appeared for the exam have cleared the all-important Board examinations and a disturbingly high number of 2,01,627 students have failed, contributing to the lowest pass percentage in Class 10 examinations in the State in the last 20 years.

A dissection of the exam fiasco brings to the fore two major factors leading to the dismal performance of students. The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education sector with the longest school closures resulting in children losing valuable instructional time for many months at a stretch slowed the learning process. In post-COVID times, the overall welfare of children has declined substantially and they are deprived of the nutrition they received under the government-sponsored meal scheme.

The parents of students who failed have made a request to the government to allot 10 grace marks and help their children regain confidence that has taken a beating due to their failure and the demand has been endorsed by a few teacher unions and the Opposition party leaders, including the Jana Sena Party president Pawan Kalyan.

The Class 10 results gave yet another platform to politicians for mud-slinging. The ruling party, Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) blamed the Telugu Desam Party for “allowing the rot of examination malpractices to continue during its rule in the State” while the latter holds the “YSRCP responsible for suicides by Class 10 students reported after the release of the exam results.”

The other reason cited for the enormity of the non-performing students is a reason to ponder over. “This result is on expected lines given the tough stand we adopted against malpractices in the exams this year,” said Director of the School Education Department S. Suresh Kumar.

The worrying part is that teachers resorting to malpractices outnumbered the erring students. Recognising the need to nip this immoral practice in the bud, the government, for the first time, invoked the AP Public Examinations (Prevention of Malpractices and Unfair Means) Act, introduced 25 years ago. Arrests and suspension of a large number of teachers, many from government schools, as part of punitive measures to cleanse the examination system, worked as a deterrent, resulting in abysmally low rate of success in the public examination.

The government rolled out a slew of reforms in the education sector, sending out a clear message to non-performing institutions to clean up their act or risk being shut down. In a move to end malpractices, the exam pattern for students who wrote their SSC exams in 2019 was revamped.

Experts say that a good beginning has been made, but creating the right ecosystem to impart quality education will be a major challenge. Knowledge, skills and expertise being key enablers in this era of technology-driven disruptions, making children break away from the traditional rote learning, specifically in schools located in small towns and villages, will be an uphill task, they point out.

The department officials have started discussing modalities to scale up reforms in the examination system by means of putting in place a fool-proof mechanism, besides initiating the exercise of improving quality of teaching by training and supporting them with modern teaching aids, tools and methodologies. The objective is to integrate the concept of lifelong learning and empower the students and make them productive citizens.

pothuri.varma@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Aug 7, 2022 5:28:57 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/time-to-roll-out-exam-reforms/article65530062.ece