First News
Volume:7, Number:37
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If every cloud has a silver lining, every silver lining also has a cloud. This reversible dictum proves right when our students are showing outstanding performance in their examination results. A growing percentage of students are passing these examinations and a growing number of them are making the top scores. So many of them are doing so well, our chests should have swollen in pride. Instead, something puckers in the deeper than the deep. Like the undertow in a surging tide, our heads hold back what our hearts behoove.

The galloping percentage and the excessive number of GPA-5s do not feel good. We do not deny that the students are working hard. We do not deny that parents are doing their best so that their sons and daughters will get good education. Tutoring, coaching, and then relentless hours of studying are producing fantastic results.

But it simply does not feel right that the number of GPA-5 winners has been increasing by leaps and bounds every year since 2004. At this rate, every candidate sitting for the examinations should get GPA-5 in future. No harm if we can reach that height, as long as we can tell the rest of the world how we got there. One thing we cannot explain is why most of these brilliant students fail to pass university admission tests.

The question is whether our students have got brighter or our system has got dimmer. We do not know what has improved between one year and another, which should lead to this exponential growth in the number of high performers. Those who are running our education system should be able to explain this phenomenon.

Lately, the Americans have grappled with the question that if the Americans do so badly in international educational tests, how do they support an advanced economy? They have tried to explain their riddle, which exists in the distinction between education and learning. The elementary and high schools provide education and they have their weaknesses, including lax standards and reluctance of students to work hard in their studies. In 2002, 56 percent of high school sophomores in the USA did less than an hour of homework at night.

But the learning system comes from traditional colleges and universities including community colleges; for-profit institutes and colleges; adult extension courses; online and computer-based courses; formal and informal job training; self-help books. Now this system has two big virtues. It gives a second chance to students, who missed the first. Secondly, it is mostly job-oriented, which accommodates people's ambitions and energies and helps compensate for some of the defects of the school system.

Unlike the Americans, we do not have separation of education from learning. For us both happen together, and if we blow one, we also blow the other. The students get only one chance, and if they miss it, wham boom-a-lam bam, they miss both education and learning.

A part of that riddle is our incessant struggle to produce raw materials for the academic factories, which pick last year's rejects to make this year's budget. It is alleged that most private universities have to make this compromise. They have to take back rejected applicants from previous years to make a viable business proposition.

More GPA-5s mean more admittable students for all universities, which is good for their business and reputation. More tutoring, more coaching, more study aids have rolled together learning and education into a thriving business. Like a bubble inside a bubble, education is merely a pretension within the pretension.

Supposedly bright students and supposedly great universities have commercialized each other. We are building our nation by GPA progression where business, not education, is the central theme.

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