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Calcutta students make a mark with arguments

Exam evaluation and stress in focus at LN Birla Debate

By Chandreyee Ghose in Calcutta
  • Published 12.07.19, 1:22 AM
  • Updated 12.07.19, 1:22 AM
  • 2 mins read
The For team in the finals of the LN Birla debate at Vidya Mandir on Thursday Picture by Koushik Saha

The mental health of students came up for discussion time and again as schoolchildren debated on the pros and cons of awarding high marks.

The 20th edition of the LN Birla Memorial Debate, in association with The Telegraph Young Metro, saw some sharp arguments and rebuttals from high school students of eight institutions. The motion: The Inflated Marking System Has Created a Bubble That Will Soon Burst.

The audience voted in favour of the motion but the judges praised the arguments put forward by the opposition.

Many of the speakers dwelt on how the marking system often led to stress and depression among students.

“The biggest problem with the inflated marking system is that it disfigures competition. Our marking system is arbitrary and random. It raises expectations. This is why students slip into clinical depression and drug addiction…,” said Ishaan Sengupta of DPS Ruby Park, the opening speaker from the proposition side.

He was not the only one. The mental health of students in present times was the subject of many speeches, including that of Rwiti Bhattacharya of Sushila Birla Girls’ School, Adreta Mitra of Mahadevi Birla World Academy and Ronit Basu of Birla High School.

“Marks are a misrepresentation of who I am and what I am capable of. Education has become a competitive rat race and the trade-off here is its quality. A bubble that reinforces suicide and unemployment is bound to burst when it reaches saturation point,” Ronit said.

His teammate in the opposition, Rayan Chakrabarti of Birla High School, stole the show with his arguments. “A bubble bursts when a commodity in a system is over-valued. When this over-valuation takes place, people opt out of the system. But where do we see people opting out of the education system and heading towards a cataclysmic future…. An education system is not only a commodity. It also promotes growth. Today more people are part of this education system. The system has changed as also the economy and social constructs. So why hold on to the traditional methods of marking? Today we have dynamic value-based evaluation that judges students round the year and not on one exam,” Rayan argued.

Most of the debaters in the opposition team said inflated marks are meant to cushion students, bolster their confidence and safeguard their self-esteem.

Prachyadeep Dasgupta of Calcutta Boys’ School said there was a time when a 90 per cent score was akin to landing on the moon. The yardsticks have changed since then.

The participants critically analysed the politics behind the marking system — from being a sop of the ruling party to promoting competition among boards, states and schools.

The judges for the finals included banker-author Rajiv Soni, neurosurgeon Indrajit Roy, lawyer Chhama Mukherjee and radio jockey Jimmy Tangree.

The chief guest, general officer commanding-in-chief of the army’s Eastern Command Lt General Manoj Mukund Naravane, urged students to follow their dreams. “Don’t take up a career that you are not passionate about. And then persevere. Success will not fall on your lap without hard work. Do your job with pride and success will follow,” he told the students.

Mukta Nain, the director of Birla High Schools, said the debate was initially organised to encourage young debaters across the country to argue on burning issues. “We have moved on from there to groom many public speakers. Debating is a necessary skill to negotiate peace,” she said.

“Most students spoke from their heart. That’s what I liked best about the debate,” added Brigadier V.N. Chaturvedi, the secretary-general of Vidya Mandir Society.

Rayan of Birla High School was adjudged the best speaker while Ishaan of DPS Ruby Park was the runner-up. The girls from Shri Shikshayatan School — Sreshtha Basu Roy Chowdhury and Sayantika Jaiswal —walked away with the Best Team award.