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Macaulay Vs Kapil Sibal

December 29, 2014

Updated Dec 31, 2014




Last evening in Tamil Toastmasters, the topic for discussion/debate was ‘Maatram’ (change). The speakers mostly spoke about cultural transition like change in dress code, legal provisions etc that have helped our society evolve.

A different angle was suprisingly explored by someone who compared Macaulay type of education in force in India for over a century with Kapil Sibal’s reforms in educational sector during the Congress regime.


‘Macaulayism’  has its fair share of critics.

My son completed his school the year Sibal’s ideas came into force. Schools started implementing the model with prescribed new syllabus and examination the year he passed out Class 12 (April 2011). The new set of regulations thus were adopted the academic year starting June 2010.




Those of my friends who had younger children were clearly in a fix. There is always a residual anxiety in parents when it comes to anything new implemented with their children’s education (on experimental basis).  None wants to become the guinea pig, and the first 1 or 2 batches invariably turn out to be the scapegoat to base our analysis on and extrapolate for further study . To Indian parents, such a field trial with their children is a very critical issue, considering the importance we accord to academics. My friends whose kids were facing boards 10 and 12 were the most concerned.  June 2010-April2011 became the first batch for who class 10 board exams were scrapped for the very first time in Indian history. This is generally referred to as ‘SSC’ or ‘Secondary School Certificate.’


There is an argument going in favour of such an ‘extreme’ step which is to be soon implemented in various state boards in the habit of following suit with CBSE at every step: it raises the minimum criteria for educational qualification to class 12 from class 10. This is to discourage school drop-outs by class 10 who will now have to wait for completion of class 12 to get a school leaving certificate or any certificate for that matter.


On successful completion of SSC lay ahead classes 11 & 12 (or what one may term PU – the pre-university years). In Mumbai and Delhi and mostly in the north, this 2-year higher secondary course is popularly referred to  as Junior College. (In Tamil Nadu, mostly 10+2 (plus two) is usually under the same school roof.) At this stage you choose your field of interest so you may major in what you opt for in graduate studies. For instance, courses offered in class 11 & 12 broadly come under 2 classifications: Maths-Science and Arts, Commerce. So here is the deviating point wherefrom your journey begins for life with a decisive spirit. At the course completion awaits standard 12 boards – the inevitable and the most important juncture for crossing into adult life for every single Indian teenager.

With the scrapping of class 10 exams, it meant that the Indian school children straight away have to sit for board evaluations (exams) in Class 12 before university admissions (for graduate courses) with no exposure to boards in class 10.

Schools now gave a choice though. If you wanted to change the board, you could apply for marksheets (otherwise you get none or a simple one with grades) and opt to appear for a board exam beforehand (of which you have to make up your mind by class 9 filling up appropriate forms).  This is like normal class 10 board exams conducted by CBSE. No variation except for some slight changes here and there to avoid malpractices etc.

If a class 10 student on the otherhand wanted to pursue his/her higher secondary course (standard 11 & 12) in the same school, then he/she need not have to sit for boards for class 10 but could opt for school exam. Once again, it had to be informed to the board via school a year prior to appearing for the exams. Schools have protocol that they take care of.


Thus classes  got divided in each and every school: one batch in class 10 appeared for boards wanting to move over to other schools/systems and another stayed back in the school to get school gradings which were supposedly to be rated without prejudice.


My friends argue, what is the merit in school grading.  The purpose of holding board/public exams is to assess a student of his/her General Proficiency (GP) in an unbiased manner. For this neutral venues and third party valuation of exam papers are mandatory. A Delhi student getting evaluated in Kerala and one from Andhra being graded by a teacher from Kashmir are relevant as early as in class 10 to give you an idea of how others value you.

Under school grading, the regular teachers are familiar with answering style of students already (even if the paper is common board paper throughout India) and are able to identify individual candidates from their presentation which goes against the grain of evaluation. Besides there is scope for bias. You cannot expect a free and fair assessment given the teachers and students are no strangers but known parties. This is human psychology.

The common sentiment is, you need a trial run in class 10 appearing for board exams in a new setting with centralized vigilance and evaluation which alone can prepare the highschoolers to face effectively the boards in class 12. When board 10 results are out, students get to know where they stand and what must be done to achieve what they aim for in higher secondary course. They learn how to face challenges, what mistakes not to make in the next boards and what discipline one must maintain in examinations. Without this yardstick to determine their capabilities, how can they come to know how they measure up against their peers in different parts of the city, state and country. A reliable feedback for class 10 in the form of board exams may go a long way in helping them sort out these issues. It is class 12 exams that are crucial when it comes to defining our children’s future. Facing boards 12 for the first time, students are bound to get nervous with no class 10 boards experience to draw reference from.


Besides how can a student with CGPA 9.1 and one with CGPA 9.9 be one and the same or bracketed under one class. Are horses and donkeys and zebras one and the same.  Grading in board exams is a very unfair practice – injustice to the better performing. Without the incentive of being differentiated and distinguished from the cattle class, the cream of our children are getting frustrated already. Recognition is what drives our kids towards perfection and excellence.


Now the CBSE curriculum, although improved and vast, also is compartmentalized in a manner that hones short-term memory the US way. Whereas the greatest plus point of Indian children has always been the long term memory where you have to recall from the first chapter of a text book until the last in the school final examinations. Every term we would brush up from the past and retain our memory the longest which has been working to our advantage when it comes to higher education. Now with bi-semester pattern coming into force, the children have no more reason for memory retention which is not healthy.


I do not want to compare Indian education with those in foreign. In many ways we have been right which is why our children are high academic achievers overseas.

The United States is pressing India for educational reforms and re-structuring for years – to the extent my friends aver this is the soft and sly way the Americans can challenge Indian brains that are a serious threat to their locals. If the current set of education reforms enforced by Sibal in the States’ model  is to continue for another decade, you  will be able to see dismal results in future. The edge of the Indian Brain will be dulled. Highschool students are already losing interest.

Earlier children used to perk up by class 8 in anticipation of higher studies and approaching boards. Now those who opt for school exams are relaxed and without serious ambition upto class 10. With no board exam to prepare for in class 10, they tend to get lethargic. There is no drive, no ambition. To what purpose anyway? Can a third world nation like India afford this luxury.

Keeping with US Curriculum, now nearly 50% of academic scoring goes to practical projects students submit both at primary. middle and high school levels. Says a friend, parents help their wards complete assignments with the aid of hired professionals in the field for a small fee.  This ensures the students a full mark in internal assessment. So the very purpose/goal of aiming to inculcate a scientific temper and thinking in our children gets defeated. As much as I welcome such a diversified curriculum, for the first time I also fear a shift from the conventional model where emphasis has always been heavily placed on pure and unadulterated academics.


Personally I am not certain whether Indian society is ready to formulate such a foreign model where focus is supposedly on more practical methods. Being a serious academic, I am against any distraction and feel threatened by novel ways and means that have come to determine the student intellect in modern times. I am scared we are ceasing to hone sharper our academic skills. Until class 5, it may be fine. But from class 6, I am for the conventional, time-tested method of education only.

Some of the kids of my extended family and friends are in high school so that has their parents concerned. They wonder how the children can cope up once they start university, with simplified grading techniques and lenient evaluation methods they get used to under present Kapil Sibal model. They are now so very accustomed to short-term memory unlike their seniors as there is no need to retain anything in your mind once a semester (term) is over for them.


Linking of Class 12 scores to computation when it comes to assess entrance to the country’s finest educational institutions like IIT/NIT is viewed the most dangerous step. Admissions to these premier academies must not be tied with school boards but must be based on free and open assessment independent of external influential factors. 

A few of my friends kids who had higher ambitions changed their mind with this new clause. Some were real IIT material. It makes me sad to see many potential IITians opting out of the race wanting to give boards more impetus. This is a new trend in last few years. Are we losing and wasting the best already.

My friends are relieved Congress government was routed out, because they feared Sibal might just scrap class 12 boards as well and make it a school affair. This is one single step to kill India in one stroke.


It was argued by Sibal, stress in school children was reduced with bi-semester pattern of education and grading. What feedback I get is 100% different. If a student is not exposed to competition and unbiased evaluation across the board at state/national level by class 10 and cannot take the mental pressure, how shall he/she prepare himself/herself for a tougher and more competitive environment in future. What kind of personality or social being he/she will develop into. 




Ex-CM Jayalalitha Jayaram in my homestate Tamil Nadu scrapped entrances to State Engingeering & Medical Colleges in one of her previous terms to reduce stress in children. The move has turned out to be counter-productive today, as the single-window counselling is not proving to be an effective tool when it comes to according admissions, with management seats in self-financed institutions getting filled far earlier before counselling sessions based on your class 12 scores begin. The entrance method was a very strict scale of measurement of students’ aptitude. Now with the current system, rural children with highest board scores manage to get into premium institutions where without a overall competitiveness and personality they fail to keep up their performance required of professional aspirants. Hence student suicides in Guindy Engineering college for instance. City students were top gainers in the entrance method as they are always better balanced which is vital when it comes to pursuing professional courses. I have nothing against rural children – but I ask everyone to visit the Anna University campus or MMC anyday to check out the student intake as per counselling method. Entrances are a means to assess a student’s compatibility on a broader basis, something the single-window counselling consistent with scores over cut-off marks fails to look into.

So we in Tamil Nadu already have a taste of this screwed-up method of education/evaluation. Which makes us weary of Kapil Sibal.





There was a similar disastrous attempt by DMK government in Tamil Nad enforcing ‘Samacheer Kalvi’ for state board students, in a bid to get  Anglo-Indian, Matric, Corporation etc under one umbrella. Instead of upgrading state syllabus, government did the reverse: downgrade the Matric standards.

I was hoping for the ADMK government headed by JJ to rectify and set right the grave condition in our local administered schools:


I have a part-time maid whose children are attending a matric school. After the ‘Samacheer Kalvi’ came into force, I asker to see their text books. Her kids showed me a single volume of hardly of 200 pages that contained an entire year’s consolidated academic syllabus: from languages like English and Tamil to Mathematics to Life sciences and EVS (environmental studies).  Not even the children were happy with the concise study. Today’s kids are very smart. They realize such a sub-standardization of their education will be to their own detriment when it would be time for university education.


The matter is since pending before court I believe and hopefully, JJ will be able to do something decisively before the end of her term. The future of the state children from lowest strata is at stake. Already there is a heavy movement to ICSE and CBSE schools from Matric based ones.

The Supreme court verdict on ‘Samacheer Kalvi’ was keeping in view with loss to be accrued by TN state government with millions of rupees worth printed and issued text books by previous DMK govt going to waste.  Meanwhile more appeals are filed in the Supreme court by the state. Expecting hopefully a reversal of order once the stocks are cleared.Will the apex court take into account intellectual loss suffered by hundreds of thousands of rural school children (the interim batches) in Tamil Nad with enforcing ‘Samacheer Kalvi.’

One more fall out of implementation of ‘Samacheer Kalvi’ is, it fixed the ceiling for levy of term fees on annual basis by private matric schools to a maximum of Rs.11,000/- . Welcome by a section of parents, the move was frowned up0n by schools and another set of parents who felt the prevailing fee structure in schools (that differs from one to another) was perfectly justified, taking into account infrastructure like lab, library, sports ground, auditorium etc., provided by some schools to their satisfaction.  Soon the agitating parents who wanted earliest implementation of a new fee table as per ‘Samacheer Kalvi’ were at loggerheads with schools, out on the streets leading protests. Whereas school managements made it clear, under the conditions, running educational institutions would no more be a profitable venture. Their chief argument was, quality of education would become the eventual casualty. I stood with teachers and management in this issue. When it comes to education of our children, there can be no compromise so far as most of us are concerned.

In my view, if you cannot afford to adhere to given fee structure in a certain school, take out your ward and move over to government schools.

Earliest relief to schools was given by CM Jayalalitha Jayaram soon as she assumed office on her party ADMK winning the state assembly elelctions in April 2011.

There is no news on ‘Samacheer Kalvi’ since.





It would be nice if BJP’s Smriti Irani tries to set right things gone wrong in congress times, like how Jayalalitha started working at the change soon as she assumed office.

I want honestly a complete restoration to older and time-tested Macaulay method, our education pattern which has been always annual for over a century. Would suggest a return to mandatory boards for class 10.

A comprehensive study of how effective the practical component in primary schooling is really in current times has to be undertaken. I am asking schools and Sibal (who is no more the central minister) one straight question: who is doing the project works, school children or their parents. Who are the assignments for. This will work in United States Mr.Sibal, not in India. You have played with the lives of generations of Indian children.

At state  level, I want a repeal of ‘Samacheer Kalvi’ with immediate effect. Those who attend state boards today come from the weakest section of our society. In my opinion, the supposed reform is a step backward for the rural students.


However there are some who are on Sibal’s side:

I wanted to check what are the flaws in our education system even if I have some awareness in the subject and here is what I got:


All said, I am only relieved my son finished schooling by 2011, especially class10.

In my view, Macaulay works the best for India. With its woes of imperfections and distortions…

(This is a very basic write-up. I had one drawn up even in 2011. but don’t have the draft now. This post shall be edited and re-edited over time with more inputs from friends and family. For the time being, I am stopping forthwith)

*Disclaimer: I am not a professional, only an interested party. Written without prejudice.




From → Dilli Durbar

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