State legitimizes its failure through ranking and grading of students

Source: Google

Have you ever wondered :

Why do we need to grade a student?
Why do we need to give marks?
What if there were no marks / no grades?
When / Why did this marking system start?
Do we really need this grade system?

Bluntly put, marks based examination is nothing but a convenient system developed to put the onus of failure on the students.

To give more context, when you fail an exam, and you don’t get admission into a college, you don’t blame the govt, right? for not being able to provide you means for accessing higher education. You feel that it’s YOUR problem that you didn’t study well / perform well.

Basically, we don’t protest or condemn the system when we don’t get a college because of low marks. We put it on us (students) that we didn’t work hard.

This is what we have been made to BELIEVE over a period of time.

A couple of centuries ago, there was nothing called marks or grades. The earliest marking schemes, said to have originated in the USA dated late 18th century. In India, all of this arrived much later. Instead of marks, earlier there were descriptive sharing of students’ performance (strengths and weaknesses) with students and their parents or guardians. But, slowly due to a rise in the number of children going for higher education, govt. did not have the proper infrastructure to provide higher education to the growing number of students. Therefore to shrug off the responsibility, and put the onus on students, this grading system was devised.

However, if you think real hard, ideally one shouldn’t need good marks “only” to get into a good college.

For example, JEE is the entrance exam for engineering. Now, to become an engineer or rather an effective engineer, let’s say that a person needs a minimum understanding of subjects: Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. So, ideally, the JEE exam should be qualifying i.e., whoever has a minimum knowledge of PCM is equally eligible to become an engineer. Then, why give ranks? why so much competition?

The idea that a student with only better subject (PCM) knowledge will become a better engineer is hugely flawed, because here you only focus on subjects, and completely negate other factors like the interest of students and the willingness to give back to the community. And, we also forget that not getting good marks doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not good at that subject. There are other factors in scoring good marks, sometimes more important than subject knowledge itself.

Intriguingly, none of us think about all of these because we have been made to believe that we need to get good marks and good ranks otherwise we’re not “fit” to be an engineer (for example), and it’s rightful that we don’t get a good college. But we forget that in an entrance exam (like JEE) where 10 lacs students write an exam for 10000 seats, somebody has to fail; for sure, you just can’t help it.

Do you observe the systemic handover of responsibility (rather guilt) to students for something in which students’ have absolutely no say?

If you still didn’t get it. Think of it this way:

It’s the state which is providing education in which student has absolutely no say. Schools are regimented structures where govt. hail that they are producing better citizens. Now, when the govt. gives education, how can they say (after 12th grade) that one student is more capable than another student? How can they differentiate? Because the state (govt.) provided education in the first place. If a student fails (or doesn’t score good rank), how is that student’s fault? Why are we not questioning the state, why don’t we hold the state responsible for the student’s failure?

The belief is so powerful, so deeply ingrained, that now, we don’t even feel that we should question the state about their inability to provide access to higher education. The state legitimizes their failure by signifying it as student’s failure.

Educationist (NIEPA) | Engineer (NIT) | Social Worker (TISS) | Counsellor (NCERT) | Researcher | Founder | Creator

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