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The Andhra Pradesh state introduced grading system in SSC last year to relieve students of stress. But this year again, when the Class X results came out, schools paraded the top scorers like they do on result day every summer. The government puts the blame on private managements for hunting down toppers despite the grade rule but educationists say it is the state that patronises these topper factories. They say the grading system for both Intermediate and SSC has failed to shift focus from top scorers to improvement of overall performance of students. The topper mania has had a serious side effect: it has taken away the focus from more crucial issues including the states falling literacy rate which is now poorer than states like Uttar Pradesh.
In what has become an annual ritual, top rankers in SSC, Intermediate, Eamcet and, of course, IIT-JEE are lapped up like trophies by private institutions. In fact, the fixation for top ranks in the state is not a recent phenomenon. Since early 90s, private educational institutions started taking the topper route to advertise themselves as the best institutions in town. They gradually but steadily tightened their grip on the state's education policy. It is an open secret that the rein of education policy is in the hands of private school and college managements. From changing a simple administrative procedure to issuing Gos, the state consults private educational institutions. Most educational institutions have a political lobby supporting them, said Ramesh Patnaik, organising secretary, AP Save Education Committee. According to Patnaik, the topper craze of the state started with the introduction of National Policy on Education in 1986 where privatisation of schooling was given much importance. Other states such as Kerala and Karnataka have successfully implemented the grading system. In Kerala, students are awarded only grades even for individual subjects in the public examination, making it impossible for schools to find toppers. With the focus on private schools churning out toppers, the performance of private, unaided schools in the state that has remained almost the same since the past few years has gone unnoticed. The pass percentage in private schools in the state has been stagnant at 74% since the past four years. But, the private schools and colleges are more interested in investing in the future toppers, say education officials. Several schools give free admissions to students who have scored extremely well in their previous academic years as an investment calculating that they would make it to the topper list, an official said. The state should try to find out the actual performance of private schools. Officials should calculate the number of students who clear Class X and even the dropout rates from these schools. Right now there is no mechanism to do this, said Achyuta Rao, AP Balala Hakkula Sangham, a child rights organisation.
Courtesy: Times of India
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