I’ve Had Enough

Alright, I’ve had enough of this.

I’ve wasted five months of my life mugging up words from textbooks, and am about to waste five more. I have no choice at this moment, but I still want to vent my rage somewhere.

The Indian Council of Secondary Education’s checking for the Board Papers happens in the following way: the papers are given to a “checker” who will have a list of keywords on her desk. In any given answer, this “checker” is to give marks based on the number of keywords she sees. After this is done, these papers go to another checker who does the actual checking. This checker sees if the answer is only a series of words, or an actual coherent sentence. However, the answer is not checked if all the keywords are not there. Only if a person writes all the keywords in a particular answer, will it be checked by this secondary checker, a person who actually knows what she’s doing. This checker’s verdict is the final one. After this woman gives a total, that’s what will be printed on this student’s marksheet. Nothing doing after this.

This system is flawed. The ICSE 10th board checking system is FLAWED. With this system, we are not raising “the leaders of tomorrow”. We are raising a hoard of people who can say, “Transpiration is the process of evaporative loss of water through the areal parts of a plant.” What is the use of this? Great! Transpiration is the evaporative loss of water, or whatever! Ask someone what “evaporative loss” means, and they respond with “I dunno. It’s not in the portion.” or “it’s not in the textbook.”

Now, the same answer could be written as, “Transpiration is the loss of water from the leaves and stem of any plant in the form of water vapour,” right? Makes sense, doesn’t it? It’s longer, but easier to remember, and it tells you what tranpiration really is. Logically speaking, it should get full marks, but noooo. ICSE wants you to write “process of evaporative loss” and “areal”. If both those words are there, then you get all your marks. Otherwise, you stick with whatever third-class college you get.

“O.K., fine,” I hear you say, “Just learn it with those words!”
To this, I respond, “With all due respect…” and laugh in your face.

Because it’s not just transpiration is it? There’s also osmosis, photosynthesis, pollution, pollutants, immunisation, vaccination, vaccine, chromosome, chromatid, gene, genetics, chordae tendinae, mitochondria, nucleus, mitosis, meiosis, and countless other definitions. Not to mention all the answers other than the definitions. Oh, also, if this wasn’t stressful enough, there’s also NINE OTHER SUBJECTS TO WORRY ABOUT!

Then you say, “Oh, those definitions are easy!”

Think again.

You forgot about the keywords.

It’s a full circle back to keywords.


So, here’s my solution. Are you ready? Drumroll, please!

No more keywords. We hire people who actually know what they’re doing and have spent years of their lives dedicated to these subjects. These people are now full-time checkers.

Now, traditionally, these people will be teachers in other schools. They will have to quit their jobs, because there are probably a COLOSSAL number of out-of-work teachers waiting to get a job.

And what about the keyword-checkers? They go back to their regularly scheduled teaching lives. They’re all teachers, spending time in classrooms, doing what? Teaching.

Let them teach.

Meanwhile, the keywords are dead. Now, a student can answer in whatever kind of language they like, as long as it is coherent and gets the point across.

Also, any answers which are word-to-word from the textbook will result in negative marking.

Here’s why:

If you can mug up words from the textbook, you just have a great memory. Most probably you have no clue what you’re talking about.

And parents? If your child scores full marks in everything, it does not mean that your child is smart. It just mean that he or she can mug things up from the textbook.

I know three or four legitimately smart people who get an average of 53% marks. On the other hand, I know four or five people who score about 96%, but when I ask them some logical, practical question, they’re blank.

It’s true that there are some people who score excellent marks, and know what they’re talking about. I know about five or six of those, too. Just know that if you have a kid who can score marks, it doesn’t mean anything. At least when you’re talking about the ICSE Boards.

Until and unless my system is adopted, the 10th board exams are not testing excellence, knowledge, intelligence, or skill. They’re merely testing memory, and memory can only get you so far.

But what do I know? I’m just a lousy fifteen year-old.


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  1. BB

    Brilliant! Excellent observations and grievances.
    But do you have any alternative to suggest as solution?

    2) You write so well and so much sensible. I just want to understand, why you have to write under different name and not your own.

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      Abu Singh

      I have suggested the alternative in the essay itself.

      2) The internet is a dark place, full of people dying to know every ounce of personal information. Any information I disclose is open for the entire world to view.

  2. ngkabra

    School can be frustrating, and board exam oriented studies, doubly so.
    So it would be a surprise if other people hadn’t written about this, right.

    Here is an essay by Paul Graham (a very insightful thinker, and a person famous in the tech startup world) about how to think about high school, and what you *should* be doing.


    Read it and let me know what you think.

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