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The result of the Class 10 examination this year, conducted by the Board of Secondary Education Manipur, sent out two very clear messages. One is a matter of jubilation and the other depression. The encouraging herald first. It was indeed extremely encouraging to see not just he pass percentage in the examination rise but also almost a quantum leap in the marks scored by the best of our students. The results are also happily showing a trend of top heaviness, in the sense that there are an increasing number of students in the top cluster of those who score 80 percent and above. This would have to do partly with the marking and question system, which are as in the case of the Central government boards, inclining more towards “objective evaluation norms”, where an answer can only be right or wrong, and nothing in between, therefore students score full marks or none at all, for each question. The merits and demerits of such an evaluation system are many, but given the reality that other boards are following this system which gets students to score high, it is good that Manipur board too is adopting this norm so that our students do not get left behind in their pursuit of further studies and later jobs.

But this is the smaller part of what is encouraging. The bigger cause for celebration is, this rise in marks scored by students is also an indication that school education in Manipur is improving, and in a substantive way. In the last few decades, there has been a silent revolution unfolding in this sector, and we are now beginning to reap the fruits of this revolution. Nobody can dispute that the spark that ignited this revolution came from a few Catholic missionary schools about half a century ago, and in time not only their number grew, but they also inspired many more private enterprises to branch out and proliferate from the example they set. If we have read the trend correctly, in the years to follow, there will be more good news of young achievers in every field, including in prestigious all India competitions. We have no doubt this is what is already beginning to happen, as the seven who cracked the UPSC conducted civil services examination this year also showed. For the sake of this beleaguered state, we do hope our assessment is not wrong.

There was also bad depressing news as well in this year’s BSEM examination result. Students of government run schools had little or no presence in the top half of the results, upwards of second division. As reported widely, there were also in all 73 government run schools with zero pass percentage. There are more dismal figures. Of the 6,484 students who appeared for the board examination from the state’s total of 323 government run schools, only 2,781 could clear the examination. Even overlooking what the government school students who cleared the examination scored, this means a pathetic pass percentage of only 42.8 percent. Records also show a progressive slide into self-obliteration. In 2013, 28 government schools showed zero pass percentage. In 2014 the decay resulted 48 government schools with no students clearing the examination. In 2015, the figure touched 70. This year it has become 73. Can anything be more shameful and alarming than this for any government? These schools employ an approximate 14,000 teachers, and they are paid much better, and given multiple times more service perks than teachers of private schools, but consistently, without even a vague sense of competition, private schools outstrip government schools in terms of results. The government does not seem to realise it is failing miserably in its vital social engineering function. It is on the other hand creating a clear knowledge divide in our society. To rephrase what Mark Twain said a hundred years ago, the more schools the government dumps now the more jails the government will have to build in the future. Look at the increasing lawlessness in the state. Look at the increasing street violence during bandhs and blockades. In more ways than one, there are social conditions of the government’s own making.

The government must wake up, and do something about this. A recent news said the Gujarat government is considering handing over charge of non-performing government schools to NGOs in a private-public partnership arrangement. Maybe there is a lesson for the Manipur government here. Or perhaps the government could make it mandatory for all its employees, ministers, bureaucrats, teachers, clerks, et al, in particular those in charge of the state education sector, to have their children study in government schools. When reality begins to bite not just others but them as well, probably the authorities will begin taking this matter seriously.

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