Tuesday, March 21, 2006

How much did you score in your high school exam?

How absurd would it be to pose this question to our Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh? Or, for that matter, to Amitabh Bachchan?

Aditya Gupta, who just finished his higher secondary school exams last year, has written a great ToI op-ed, in which he puts all these 'board exams' in perspective. Don't forget to read the last couple of paragraphs.

As far as your immediate future is concerned, the board exams are important. What students and even parents don't realise is that they're not the only thing.

Many parents transform into grade-hungry chasers who don't realise that what their child needs at this juncture is assurance, not criticism.

It doesn't make sense to lose sleep over a result, which in any case, is going to be rendered inconsequential in a few years. ...


  1. Anonymous said...

    *warning* Long comment...,
    I have a lot of personal experiences that might convince Aditya to change his viewpoint. As someone who has gone through every single phase of what Aditya says, I think he has still not understood how things work. I might have done well in grad school, but during the gap between my graduation and coming here to the US, I found that even after a college degree, your high school scores can make or break your chances on your first job.
    My math score in my Boards (CBSE) in 1996 was just about average and I would not have gotten into my undergrad insti (a private college in TN, which has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 10 years and is a "deemed university") if not for the management quota. But I was not exactly a dullard and so I graduated with decent grades as a mechanical engineer. But when I tried to get into several s/w firms with a view of working on their CAD services teams (I also have a diploma in CAD), I was still cast away because of my grades in the boards.
    Every major IT company was asking for consistency right from the Xth standard. I came to know that I had been in the top 10 percent in one particular company's aptitude test, but still did not get a interview call and the only area that I was lacking in was my 12th Standard scores, which was later confirmed by someone who worked there and made some "polite enquiries" with her pal in HR.
    For the record, later, I did score above 2050 in my GRE (out of 2400 then) and a full score in the TOEFL. I also wrote the CAT and got calls from MDI and a pair of second rung B-schools after cruising through the month between my GRE and the CAT. I chose grad school in the US over the B-school admits, which on hindsight, constiutes a small error in judgement considering what I have gone through to get a job here in the past year after graduating with a masters in a non s/w or hi-tech stream. But to the hiring managers, the 12th standard scores make or break someone's suitabilities.
    Anyways, The point I am trying to make is that, regardless of what anyone feels, it is the hiring managers of Indian firms that need to do a rethink first, on what they think are relevant core competencies. If they are hell bent on using test scores, the least they can do is use some standard test scores. I am not sure whether the parity between the different boards of education is understood by the corporates.
    For example, in 1996 when I wrote my boards under the CBSE stream, students in TN who studied under the State government's board got tested based ONLY on questions that appear at the end of each chapter in their text-books, while my tests were based on questions that I could not guess even if I did some statistical analysis on similar question papers in the last 50 years. So from time to time I could come accross state board students who memorized solutions to every single problem in their math textbook contributing in no small way to the obscenely high "centums" every year.
    And in some years when questions were not identical, there were even cases filed in court. So these students invariably got higher percentages than their counterparts from the Central Boards, just by "mugging".
    But I see where the problems lie. With recruitment being at record levels, it is highly impossible for face to face interaction between prospective employers and fresh graduates of the kind that happens elsewhere. For e.g. I have had job interviews that have been over 4 rounds.
    Bah... I could go on and on. I don't have a solution for this, but I somehow think that this is all awry and might be a contributing factor in lot of companies facing high new hire attrition rates.

  2. Abi said...

    aNTi: One good way of framing the question is as follows: at the age of, say, 60, if you look back at your life, what significance are you likely to attach to your board exam scores? I don't know about you, but I don't think they are siginificant at all. Even at my age which, thankfully, is far below 60 ...

    Don't get me wrong. The results of board exams do matter -- immediately. They do decide quite a few things that will follow (as you have described so eloquently). However, the point that's being made is that, ultimately, what you make of yourself is (and will be seen by yourself as) far more significant than these one-off events.

    In any event, Aditya's article is not about these issues; it's more about those who become so closely identified with their (poor) results in board exams as to even contemplate (and in somecases, commit) suicide. I am sure you will agree that the board exams are not *that* important (I mean, on the cosmic scale of things ...)

  3. Nathan said...

    Well, opinions may differ, but the fact remains. Marks are only a partial analysis of one's true abilities. A person interested in history or sports may not be so good at maths or science. An engineer may never know the battle strategies of Napolean Bonaparte, an art student may not care about the breakdown of the large hadron collider.
    The board exams only test the ability of a student to reproduce what is confined in his/ her books. Beyond that scope, it is just a matter of the test of the discipline of a student to commit himself/herself to a particular task. Education should be a tool to gain knowledge that is useful throughout our entire lives. Having said that, exams are indeed obsolete when it comes to gauging that kind of a knowledge present inside a student. I, as a twelfth student about to write my board exams in Tamilnadu commencing on the first of march 2010, just hope that in the future, exams would morph into a complete assessment of one's skills and the ability to use the knowledge gained rather than just reproducing what has alredy been said.

    After all, what is the point of us knowing e=m*c*c if we don't know what to do with it.