With Telangana students failing, KCR is on test

Two months

That was the time sought by the Telangana State Board of Intermediate Education in the High court to undertake revaluation of 3.28 lakh students who had failed the Intermediate exams this year. The bench was taken aback. A counter argument was put forward that when answer sheets of 9.74 lakh students who appeared for the exam were checked in about a month’s time, why should revaluation of one-third the answer sheets take double the time. The Board was given time till Monday to come back with a revised deadline.

The Board’s worry is that the revaluation will not be restricted to the failures alone.

“There are students who have scored 40 marks while they were expecting 70 marks and so on. There are many cases like that. It is but natural they will also apply for revaluation. The Board could end up revaluating more than half of the entire lot all over again,” says Madhusudan Reddy, President of the Government Junior Lecturers Association.

Its immediate concern is to get a fix on the protests that have broken out outside the Board’s office in Hyderabad and the technical snags. The police force’s high-handed approach to students and parents who are in anguish, has not helped. It has sent across the message that the government and its Education ministry just does not care.

BJP protest outside the Board for Intermediate Education office in Hyderabad

Opposition parties have joined the parents in the protest and the optics show the government in poor light. They are demanding that the Board waive off the Rs 600 that it charges for revaluation per paper. The Board till Wednesday evening was unwilling to do that till chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao stepped in to announce a waiver for those students who had failed the exams. Those students who have passed the papers but wish to get them revaluated, will need to pay the fee.

“I cleared all my papers in my first year of Intermediate. In my second year, I have been failed in three papers. It is just not possible. And the Board expects me to pay Rs 1800 for the revaluation,” protests Jyothi, outside the Telangana State Board of Intermediate Education in Hyderabad. 

Another student Lokesh has arrived at the Board office, unable to apply online for revaluation of one paper in which he has failed. 

“It keeps flashing `Server Not Found’ when we apply online for revaluation,” he says. Many other students are despondent at their hard work coming to nought, insisting there is no way they could flunk the papers. Clearly there is a trust deficit vis-a-vis the Board, its technical partner and set of invigilitors.

Another concern for the administration is that according to its schedule, it has to conduct advanced supplementary examination on 16 May for those students who have failed in the Intermediate exams of 2019. That would mean it has to finish the revaluation process before 16 May. 

Which is why the two-month deadline it submitted to the court is simply not feasible. The Board was not too keen on the court ordering a compulsory revaluation of three lakh answer sheets but now with the CM insisting on it, it has no other go. It will also have to finish it much before 16 May.  

A third concern – in fact, fear – is what happens if any of the 17 students who committed suicide unable to bear the shock of a failure, actually pass after revaluation. 

“Take the case of Anamika who committed suicide at her home in Hyderabad. She passed in all the subjects with first class marks but failed in Telugu where she secured 20 marks. If she clears the paper in revaluation, the Board secretary should be held as an accused,” says Reddy.  

The Board in its defence points out that the issue is being blown out of proportion. While accepting that some technical errors may have crept in, it points out that the number of failures in 2019 is more or less the same as it was in 2018. Last year, 9.53 lakh students appeared for the exam of which 5.72 lakh passed, translating to a pass percentage of 60 per cent. 

A government school in Sircilla that has got a makeover

Beyond the present tragic episode, this to my mind, ought to be an equally big concern. It is a blot on the education system in Telangana if one in every three students in class 12 fails in the state. Part of the problem is because students appear in the Telangana state board from backward districts where the standard of teaching is often not up to the mark.

If K Chandrasekhar Rao is keen on improving the socio-economic indicators of rural Telangana, quality teaching institutions have to be a priority area. This will mean not only building better infrastructure but also recruit committed and proficient teachers in rural and semi-urban schools. KCR should brainstorm with leading educationists on how to bridge the gap between the cities and the small towns and villages. If Delhi state can improve the standard of teaching in government schools, so can Telangana.

Not focusing on it would only lead to two Telanganas – one where students make it big in life and the other which continues to stay on the fringe.

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