CBSE Results – Education Democratized?

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While we were growing up, all of us thought that the Board results are the most important things that will make or break us. Well, I am not attempting to debate this motion, at least not right now, in the aftermath of the recently declared CBSE results. However, the results got me thinking on more than one dimension on the question of whether this is the beginning of the democratization of Education?

So, without further ado, here goes my train of thoughts….and if we are taking a train, we might as well go straight to the hinterlands.

A Journey to the Hinterlands

The first thing that strikes you is the demographic distribution of the toppers. I am talking about 5 students who secured the top 2 scores in Class 12th and the 13 students who jointly secured the top rank in Class 10th.

Let’s look at the distribution of these 18 students by the population of the cities the students come from:

  • Top 10 cities of the country – The 10th most populated city of the country, Jaipur saved the day with the sole representative among the elite list of 18 toppers.
  • Top 100 cities – Ghaziabad, Noida, Meerut and Jamnagar together had 9 toppers. Technically, some of these could be classified as Delhi NCR, but that debate is futile.

Because, any which way, this still leaves us with almost half of the list. And these are achievers that have come from towns outside the top 100 cities in India. These students come from Ambala, Bhatinda, Jaunpur, Jind, Koppam, Muzaffarnagar, Rae Bareli and Rishikesh.

One can look at overall statistics and not just a statistically invalid sample size of 18. However, the trend cannot be missed and I have been saying this for several years. There is something different about children and youth who come from economically less privileged backgrounds or from non-metro cities. They are more humble, disciplined, resilient and have more fire in the belly. Period.

Corporate leaders are often heard saying that one should hire for attitude and not aptitude. Skills can be developed if one has the right attitude. The above results clearly indicate that you have both aptitude and attitude in the Bharat out there. If you get rough diamonds, will you spend time and money polishing them or will you throw them away?

The Myth about Millennials

People from Generation X and Y and the Baby Boomers typically tend to hold a stereotypical image of the Millennial. I have heard so many of my peers ranting about their attitude towards work and life.

Even if I say that 13 students scoring 499 out of 500 means something, it will be met with stiff resistance. The standard objections will surface to justify the bias. Some may say, “They must have been given grace marks”. Others will remark that “The marking must have become more lenient”. Or that “the pattern has changed dramatically since our time”. 

However, the unbiased fact is that the results point to the kids of this generation doing something far more than what our generation could achieve, at least at this age. There may be several reasons for this but let me offer one explanation.

The quantum of information and stimuli to which this generation is exposed in their early childhood and adolescence is an order of magnitude higher than their peers from a couple of decades earlier.

A neuro-scientist will tell you the details of the impact that this has on the development of the brain. However, the bottom-line is that our species has evolved. We may not yet be Homo Deus (a book by Yuval Noah Harari), but we are moving from Homo Sapiens to at least Homo App-ians.

Disciple of Discipline

On a personal note, my kids study in one of the schools that churned out one of the national toppers. My daughter wrote an article about her experiences on a school trip to Mayo College recently. One of her key take-aways from the trip was the need for discipline. This is also what I referred to in my recent Account of Annual Closing – The Endgame.  

Fundamentally it all boils down to getting the basics right. This is applicable to both business and education. 

David vs Goliath

Speaking of which, education has transformed into a big business over the last few decades. We did not associate branding, franchise models, ambience and world class infrastructure with schools until too long ago. This has led to the emergence of the Goliaths among schools, in terms of branding and reputation.

However, one look at the list of schools that have produced the toppers is good enough to dispel the myth. For instance, the three schools that have produced the Class 10th topper from Ghaziabad are Ch. Chhabil Dass Public School, Uttam School for Girls and Seth Anandram Jaipuria School. None of the big brand names made the list. David felled Goliath once again!

Learning to Learn

I was speaking with a fellow IIM alumni, Harinder, with whom I have had passionate discussions about the state of education and the crying need for change. I had spoken to him about his previous venture targeting offline intervention for K-12 kids. He has just launched The Infinity School, that promises “Learning to Learn”, an apt goal for the ever-changing times.

It is heartening to see such thoughts getting integrated into mainstream education, rather than just being confined to ed-tech ventures. The latter seem to grab more headlines for raising millions than for their accomplishments (just saying). Raising funds is not the end objective of business, let alone an educational initiative. However, those are thoughts for some other day!

STEM vs Root

The mention of ed-tech has got me thinking in another direction. We live in the Information Age and tech is an integral part of all aspects of our lives. The next generation seems to be wearing gadgets as second skin and appears to be comfortable with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).

However, it is not very obvious whether the Information and tech revolution implies that the focus should move to left-brained education or right-brained creative stimulation. We will probably need more people with compassion, empathy and the human touch in future. Someone with these skills needs to create a conducive and amicable working environment, integrating robots and humans (and cyborgs?).

While various technologies branch out from the STEM , it is also time to go back to our roots (pun intended). The cognitive abilities distinguish us from other species and creativity is our natural instinct. We need the root to support the stem and nourish the branches so that we can reap the fruits.

Left and/or Right

On this note, it is heartening to note that there is a lot of diversity among school toppers across Science, Commerce and Humanities streams.

hindustan times_cbse board toppers from delhi

 Article from Hindustan Times highlighting toppers in Delhi schools are increasingly from the Humanities stream (Thanks to Harinder for sharing the clip and insights)


Gone are the days when an academically strong child was nudged (or forced) to study Science and start preparing for JEE or Medical entrance examinations. However, this stereotype is still very prevalent in our society. 

I was mentioning to another one of my IIM alumni last week that the courses dealing with behavioral dynamics and psychology were most useful in real life. To my surprise, with typical STEM-pride, he opined that these were not ‘real’ subjects. I look forward to a time when the ‘softer’ subjects are not treated with disdain. Why should a techie look at a Humanities student and presume that he/she could not take up the sciences because they were no good at Maths?

The left vs right debate has been raging on for ages and probably will continue in the times to come. However, I believe that instead of arguing whether the glass is half full or half empty, we should create a symbiotic relationship between water and air so that the glass is always full!

Education Democratized?

One of the key take-home points is the need for balance and to consciously overcome our biases. We need to side-step our hard-wired thought patterns, since these may not be supported by facts. Instead, we should resort to (Kahneman’s) Slow Thinking, and we may be surprised with the results.

I personally find it heartening that two themes I love discussing have come together. Firstly, the need to keep learning and lead an ‘autodidactual’ life. Secondly, the need to democaratAIze i.e. democratize the understanding and usage of AI and all other jargons representing cutting-edge and new age tech.

These results have busted a lot of myths and stereotypes as we have seen above. More importantly, this is sending a strong signal that learning and education is getting democratized. It seems to be as good a time as ever to intensify my autodidactual journey and democratAIze.

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