Odious comparisons

The ranking of the country’s “best performing schools” is out.  Ten schools have held on to the top positions for the last three years.

School management will be proud, parents who have students studying in these schools will be happy, and students themselves will be elated.  But wait!  Do we need such a ranking system to gauge our schools?  Are the methods adopted to assess schools fair?

The education monitoring and support services division, which initiated this in 2010, has good intentions.  Through this exercise, the idea is to improve the quality of education, improve performances and support those who lag behind.  Schools are assessed on three scorecards – academic learning, quality enabling practices, and the Gross National Happiness scorecard.

Not to deride the noble initiative, but the criteria are vague, and applying them to all schools seem unfair.  For instance, the enabling practices scorecard measures effectiveness of infrastructure, and quality and impact of teaching and training, among others.  How would a school with poor infrastructure score high?  How could a private school that charges thousands of ngultrums as admission fees be compared with government schools?  Then there are other factors, like student-teacher ratio, age of school, infrastructure and location.

The criteria to measure and compare schools must be more detailed and inclusive of several factors, yet grading schools is not a good practice.  Especially when Bhutanese are blurred with the grade mentality, whether it is at the work place, school or, for that matter, in society.  We don’t want students to grow up learning that they are studying in a top ranked school or a school that had not featured in the list.

This will have implications.  Students, teachers and school managements will be pressured to feature on the list.  Pressure to perform is not always good.  We know some private schools are more concerned about producing board examination toppers.  That’s why, in some schools, students say they start studying for class XII board examination before they are even in class XII.  Topping board examination will mean more students seeking admission.

Some schools provide scholarships, from partial to full, to students with good marks.  The intention is again to increase toppers or pass percentage.  This is not healthy and the question is how do they grade them?  This applies to students, who excel in sports.  The intention here is again not only recognising skills, but to win tournaments for the school and improve its image.

It is fair as a business, but what about the student after he or she graduates?  Education goes beyond passing or topping exams.  We have now new concepts in education, like autonomous and central schools.  Where is the so-called level playing field, if ranking is to be continued on the same scorecard?

Schools compete among themselves without having to be ranked.  This is evident from the past, when students were happy to be graduates of a certain school.

 

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