A Kafkaesque move

Topics CBSE

Imagine this: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) decides that customers who want to change banks for whatever reason have to seek clearance from them. A customer who wants to move from one bank to the other has to provide all supporting documents and convince an official sitting behind his desk in the RBI that he deserves to change banks. If the official is convinced, he clears the file. As it happens in India quite often, he may charge a small fee under the table to allow the customer to do this.

This, in effect, appears to be what the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is proposing for admissions in Grade 9 and Grade 11 in its affiliated schools. The board is proposing that parents who want to change schools at these stages need to explain why. When I read about this, I was surprised since I thought CBSE already had plenty on its plate, a lot of which it is unable to do with any finesse or expertise. Why would it want to get into routine matters such as school admissions?

On further enquiry, I learnt that the move is aimed at checking one primary malpractice. Students from non-affiliated schools seek admissions in affiliated ones in these classes to be able to take and clear the CBSE board examinations held in Class 10 and 12. The students have till Class 8 not followed the CBSE prescribed curriculum or pedagogy and this affects the results of affiliated schools. To check this, CBSE intends to regulate admissions.

The CBSE bizarrely wants parents to prove — through the results of both the admitting and leaving schools and the quality of teachers working in them —that the move is justified. So the burden of proof that I “deserve” what I am asking for falls on me. It has further stipulated that the school that is losing the student must cooperate with the parents.

In addition, the controller of examinations for CBSE made a strange statement. He said, “There have been cases when students unnecessarily try to change the schools in class 9 and 11, citing that the other school is better.”

This, to my mind, amounts to using a sledgehammer where a pair of pliers could have done the job. In CBSE’s books, the solution to every problem appears to be more control, more regulation and more centralisation of power.

Why not do a few random checks on affiliated schools to ensure that the students enrolled for taking the board examinations were on the school roster all along and have not suddenly sprung up from nowhere? Penalise offenders and that will check the malpractice.

Moreover, the controller’s statement strikes me as rather senseless. What can be a more valid reason to change a school than the fact that other school is better? What is “unnecessary” about this? If the school admission is being sought in is demonstrably better than the one the student is being withdrawn from, I see that as the best possible reason for withdrawal.

Not only is the proposal absurd, it’s impractical. How and why should I prove to some indifferent CBSE official where I educate my child, that this is where I deserve and desire to be. Why should some random officer decide where I can or cannot educate my child? Am I not free to change my mind on this whenever I like? This will simply create one more avenue for the CBSE official to earn some money under the table as happens with recognition and other such requirements that need to be met from time to time. 

Further, why would a school that is losing a student cooperate to prove that it’s actually performing worse than its rival that will admit the withdrawn student? Have they got nothing better to do?

What’s even more worrying is this. Almost all the school principals and board members I spoke to uniformly criticised the move and gave me a host of reasons why it made no sense. Yet none of them want to go on record or be quoted directly as they fear that their schools will attract the ire of the CBSE. They argue that any form of dissent is met with the board’s wrath. This is a more fundamental problem and doesn’t bode well for the future. A “my way or the highway” approach ensures we lose out on the richness a variety of views can bring in.

A confident regime need not and should not resort to such strong-arm tactics.

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