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Are we educating or certifying?

G. Balasubramanian is a doyen of school education in India. He has held several positions of leadership at CBSE, including Director Academics. He was the brain behind the introduction of several innovations at CBSE which included frontline curriculum, Communicative Approach to Language Teaching, Information Technology, Alternatives to Homework, etc. He is also an author, poet and a sought-after speaker at education conferences world over.


I have been debating on this question for over a decade. I am convinced that we are systematically derailing from the basics of the process of education.

Whatever processes we are adopting in our educational institutions, both at the school and at higher levels, largely do not appear to fall within the ambit of any definition of ‘education’. The goals of all learning appear to be predefined to prepare the learners to pass an examination and obtain a certificate to the effect that she stands qualified. While certainly any system needs to have some metrics to measure the growth profile of the learners, the question remains whether those metrics are valid, reliable, credible and do indicate the factual status for which they are enabled.

A pass with a percentage of 35 percent is basically an admission of 65 percent of incompetence! The fact that one stands with a high score on this matrix is also no indication of the interest, aptitude and skills of the individual in this given discipline, as the same may be an outcome of a ‘rote learning’ process.

In the process of perfecting a matrix and positioning the learner on a pre-conditioned learning curve, we are driving the learning to a linear learning format, strangulating extended learning, further learning, experimental and experiential learning.

The argument that in a large population, the system needs some format to position the performance profile of the learners is acceptable, but why should the learner be drilled and shaped to face an examination ten or twelve years later in his life, thereby negating the joy of learning at every stage of his growth profile? Oftentimes, the learners are promoted and certified not because they deserve to be treated so, but to demonstrate the success of a failed system. In many cases, the survival of the departments, institutions and functionaries depend on these criteria!

Given the freedom to use localized criteria for such assessments, there is both misuse and abuse of this facility thereby equating, promoting and certifying a ‘non-performer’ with a ‘performer’ tag for unjustifiable reasons.

Hundreds and thousands of examinees prepare for such examinations even without any reference to the curriculum, syllabus, textual material and only with targeted question papers. Having been ‘certified’, they carry with them no ‘relevant skills’ for such certification. Many a times, interacting with such persons is a painful experience!

Education, if understood clearly, is an entirely different process of empowering people to be competent, confident and contributive citizens. Education is a process of humanizing the learner! Unfortunately, ‘certifications’ always do not meet these criteria!

This article was originally published in magazine in the month of January, 2019.


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