Cut-off policy cutting too deep

What is the point in investing so much in educating our children and then cutting them off midway?

How do we tell with a straight face to a devastated son of a farmer who has barely managed to eke out a 57.5% that he has passed but failed?

How do we achieve Gross National Happiness if our kids’ education is foreshortened?

How do we provide equal opportunity and create the necessary condition for happiness in a GNH society if our education is inequitable and if we allow it to be further debased it by a narrow, myopic cut-off policy?

Our textbooks are outdated and teachers are frustrated. Our education encourages intellectual pride than intellectual humility. And we have a cut-off policy that is only aggravating our education woes. The policy is to all intents and purposes casual, bankrupt, lazy, regressive and un-education. It is an assault on the dreams and hopes of our students and parents alike.


It is easy to justify – or find an excuse rather – that the policy is necessary given the limited space in public schools and quickly throw a hissy fit as we victim-blame those devastated kids. But it appears inexplicably hard for our authorities to go beyond the obvious to explore the possibility of doing the right thing.

We must reflect on the consequence of snuggling down under the warmth of such a justification for far too long. We must not allow the future of our nation to be held hostage by the inaction of a highly paid few.

For 2016, the statistics and the shoddy policy tell us that only 40% of the students who “passed” the exam can be taken in and the rest – a staggering 60% translating into about 6,100 young minds – will have to be cut-off! This is insane and if we do not see it here we never will. If that is the kind of vision we have for our education, something is woefully wrong with it.

Unless acted upon, statistics are for the birds. Our obsession with making an annual comparative commentary about pass percentages without doing much to create the opportunity for more of our kids to complete their schooling through class 12 is risibly absurd.

With the cut-off policy in place, we are not educating our children. Instead, they are being thrown into an abyss of despair that is full of youth related issues including youth unemployment. The cut-off policy will only increase the incidence of youth related problems in our country as it cuts off more and more of our young boys and girls from their dreams and hopes.

The cut-off policy does not appreciate the fact that our children may be differentially abled. For far too often our system of education has been limiting the limitless potential of our children that our system of examination has never been designed to account for in the first place

Our vision of education needs to take cognizance of the fact that each student’s potential is much beyond the 58% cut-off. It needs to appreciate that every student is worth more than the 58% cut-off. It needs to encourage efforts to harness the huge reserve of talent in our students by not limiting their opportunity to learn and complete their secondary schooling.

There is a rich seam of research evidence that shows that children from poor families perform poorly in exams owing to reasons such as lack of learning resources and opportunities that only rich families can afford. Given this, chances are that those students who scored less than 58% could be from families that are doing it tough. Clearly, this is where income inequality leads to inequality in education that is further aggravated by the nudging of our education towards a market-based idea where the rich gets the best.

Some universities in India are already asking a cut off of 100%. The trend is building up in our country, too. Every new admission season demands a higher cut-off. This not only puts our children under a lot of pressure but also makes learning more about getting the ‘As’ than discovering the world around them and enjoying as they do it.

Perhaps such a trend is deleterious, which is why educationists are looking at ways to reform the education system so that it does not lay too much emphasis on the scorecard but also takes on board other equally important things such as values, character, aptitude and soft skills.

Even employers are looking at it differently. Google no longer focuses on GPAs or hire graduates from top universities saying they often lack “intellectual humility”. This is a major policy shift for a giant of a company and a very positive one that is encouraging and dovetails with a vision of education that we should aspire for.

It’s worth laboring the point here – the Finnish model, adopt it and the cut-off policy will be a thing of the past. That is the only way we can ensure none of our children falls through the gaps in the education system.

What the Finnish model tries to do is create a pool of educated citizens, not a few “toppers” and a sea of dropouts. We need an education system that educates people and helps us develop a labour market that can take on the challenges of our collective future. A good analogy is the superb DeSuup program; everyone passes and nobody fails. Almost everyone is a soldier today, ready to pick up arms if and when asked of them.

Lets face it, most of those who keep this nation moving forward did not top exams or scored well beyond the cut off of their time. But the cut off policy is not helping this group of critical people.

Let’s give our current education policy a serious rethink. The status quo is not acceptable if we are to confidently face the challenges of the 21st century and beyond. We stand to benefit from a better education vision and a better education policy.

Reap the whirlwind or revel the sagacity. We have a choice.

Contributed by

 Dorji Tshering 

1 reply
  1. irfan
    irfan says:

    Is anyone out there in agreement with me if I say that it’s a difficult task at the conceptual level to define ‘education’? I simply can’t imagine a student in his middle secondary level of education to explain education in all its details. Education at any of the levels in our life remains an universal process of learning. Isn’t that so?

    For those who study the universe as part of their basic education probably knows how to deal with two broad concepts of ‘Big Bang’ and ‘Steady State Theory’ in explaining the formation of the universe. I am not the expert or right person to go into details of those theories; but I know that it’s ‘Big Bang’ which has been the accepted theory behind the formation of the universe. But my concerns are in the way we introduce education in our system of learning. In other words, if education can be made to substitute an universe in a hypothetical way; which theory should be preferred!

    Should we try to keep knowledge density an uniform phenomenon starting from primary level of education till all the way to the university? If we read the text books available for our school kids when they are getting enrolled to primary schooling, I think we haven’t considered a ‘Big Bang’ approach at least in education. And we don’t have university level professors to come and teach our school children where there can be a better balance between a ‘Big Bang’ and ‘Steady State’ theories at least in the field of education and its planning for creating the so called pool of educated citizens.

    Cut-off marks and a merit list becomes an issue once we are passed the Class X barrier. Students only have options of three vertical climbs ahead and cut-off marks decide the fate. Unfortunately enough, it not only decides the fate of the student, but it also decides the fate of an education system that a nation preserves. But in my opinion, the situation remains the same. Should a few text books of Science, Social Science, Language in general along with Mathematics and even Computers be considered enough for a ‘Big Bang’ to happen in our education system? Or we need creative forces to bring things into a preferable steady-state.

    There are not a whole many choices to make. We either introduce the University level text and reference books at the schools and expect the school teachers to be trained enough to make the students learn it or bridge the gap between an university level professor and a school teaching system. But if there is not much resources available to bridge that same gap; we are already up against a difficult situation because the gap needs to be bridged for quality, not just quantity.

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