Introduction: “An [education] system that is lifeless, devoid of joy and freshness, not even offering an iota of space to move and grow, is doomed to dead, dry rigidity. Can such a system ever nurture the child’s mind, expand her horizons, and elevate her soul and character? Will this child, once she grows up, ever be able to figure anything out on her own, overcome hurdles using her own resources, stand on her own two feet with head held high banking on her own natural fire? Will she not be given to mindless copying [from others], cramming [without comprehension] and slavish servitude?” Quoted from: Shikshar Herpher (Manipulations and Distortions in Education, 1907, p.539), Rabindranath Tagore. (authors’ translation). The angst expressed in the above quote is shared by many contemporary scholars and experts. Indeed, the Indian school education system seems to be under the grip of a `diploma disease’ (Dore, 1976). More specifically, the sceptre of test scores seems to be haunting the entire school system in contemporary India, deforming the educational values of teachers, parents, education bureaucrats and above all hapless students. To put it differently, the prevailing educational ethos is such that value addition through education is measured mostly in economic terms of marks and test scores, rendering irrelevant other worthy goals of learning such as cognitive development, creative thinking, and citizenship abilities. Curiously, almost all schools – from elite to budget, from vernacular to English-medium, from `communal’ to `secular’, from government to private – seem to be chasing the same `dream’ of turning over more students securing more marks. Children are driven to savour first the joy of earning marks and then of earning money, thereby numbing their urge to explore the joy of learning.
ISS Staff Group 2: States, Societies and World Development
Research paper, published as a chapter in: Christine Sleeter et al, titled School Education, Pluralism and Marginality. Comparative Perspectives (Orient Blackswan, Hyderabad), 2012.
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Mooij, J.E, & Majumdar, M. (2012). The Marks Race. India’s Dominant Education Regime and New Segmentation. In ISS Staff Group 2: States, Societies and World Development. Retrieved from