Tuesday, September 13, 2011

From EC&PS and EPS to 100%

On 15th June 2011, The Times of India carried a news item that created a furore in academic and political circles. 

Shri Ram College of Commerce, affiliated to Delhi University, put up a notice that the cut off marks for admission to B Com degree was 100%. They could not increase it beyond 100% because T P Kailasam was not around.

T P Kailasam, famous Kannada writer, was known for his wit and is credited with giving a new shape to Kannada stage by his revolutionary dramas. He was the son of Justice Paramashiva Iyer, the then Chief Justice of Madras High Court. Father and son were not in good terms as the father expected total discipline from the son and the son wanted to be free and live on his own terms. When someone introduced him as the son of Justice Paramashiva Iyer, he immediately retorted that it was not his fault.

In one of the question papers for an examination at which T P Kailasam appeared, the students were given 10 questions with a choice to answer any five they liked. The paper was for 100 marks, each question carrying 20 marks. Being extraordinarily brilliant, TPK answered all the 10 questions and left a note in the end of the answer book for the teacher to value any five questions he liked! The teacher brought the answer paper to the class and told the students that TPK got 200 marks out of 100 marks as he had answered all the questions correctly!!

When the cut off of 100 per cent for admission to B Com degree was announced by the Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), almost everyone expressed outrage as none of them knew of T P Kailaasam. Shri Kapil Sibal, the Human Resources Development Minister (of what was called Education Ministry earlier) had to perforce express his views. He said it is unfortunate and unbelievable and requested the Vice-chancellor of Delhi University to look into the matter.

The Vice-chancellor could not disobey the powerful minister. He dutifully looked into the matter and issued a statement the very next day that he had looked into the matter and it is true. He passed on the issue to the Principal of the Shri Ram Commerce College to further look into the matter.

Now it was the turn of Shri P C Jain, Principal of SRCC to be outraged. He stated that the cut-off of 100% was justified and the college has been following this for many years! Why all this big noise all of a sudden? Does it not show the great heights or depths to which our Human Resource Development has reached?

Cut-offs for other subjects have gone up this year as well. For Chemistry and Physics, cut-off level is 13% and 10% higher in many colleges over the respective cut off levels last year. However, students need not worry as the cut-offs will not go beyond 100% since fortunately T P Kailasam is not waiting for admission.

The Right Honourable Lord Macaulay should be dancing in his grave.

In this background, it becomes necessary to know about Macaulay and how Indians have beaten Lord Macaulay at his own game even though they no longer remain Indian.

Come to think of it, the present generation does not know the level of marks and grades in use 50 years ago. At that time, primary school was from standard I to IV, middle school was from standard V to VIII and high school was from standards  IX to XI. There used to be a public examination after 8th standard called LS or Lower Secondary. The examination fee was "Eight Annas" (present 50 paisa - fortunately 50 paisa is still use even though all coins up to 25 paisa are now discontinued), and parents would proudly say that their son or daughter has passed 8 annas examination. After passing this examination most students would start working as teachers and their education would end at that. Some fortunate ones would move over to High Schools and appear at Two Rupee examination, at the end of 11 years, called as Secondary School Leaving Certificate Examination or popularly known as SSLC.

As per the principles enunciated by Lord Macaulay, the grades awarded in SSLC examination were four in number, as under:

1. Failed (when the student got less than 35%)
2. EPS - Eligible for Public Service (when the student got less than 40% or 50% at different periods of time).  The student can join government service but not a college.
3. EC&PS : Eligible for admission to an University and Public service (when the student got over 40% or 50% at different periods of time)

4. Supplementary - when the student passed in EPS earlier but reappeared subsequently and obtained EC&PS with a better effort. This is similar to what we now call withdrawing due to lower marks and class for obtaining a higher grade after re-appearing at the same examination next year.

EPS and this type of awarding grades was based on Lord Macaulay's famous Minutes on Indian Education, delivered in 1835.

The Right Honourable Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay was born on 25th October 1800 in the Scottish Highlands and died on 28th December 1859. He lived for only 60 years but achieved a lot due to his remarkable intelligence and hard work. He is a noted British poet, historian, reviewer, essayist  and politician. He went to Trinity College in Cambridge and won the Chancellor's Gold Medal there. Once out of college he made a series of speeches on Parliamentary Reforms and contributed substantially to the well known Great Reform Act, 1832 of UK. He became an MP from Leeds in his early days and after his stint in India, became an MP from Edinburgh. He also worked as Secretary of War between 1839-1841 and was Paymaster General between 1846-48.

Macaulay had a hand in the passing of the Government of India Act, 1833 by England and was subsequently sent to India in 1834 as the first Law member of the Governor Generals Council. He served on the Supreme Council of India also. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (passed after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 or India's First War of Independence as is called now), Criminal Procedure Code, 1872 and Civil Procedure Code, 1909, though enacted subsequently, carry his stamp and thinking.

One of the challenges before the British rulers in India was to communicate, control and administer the vast areas of India and its millions of inhabitants with the limited number of English speaking officers brought from England. Macaulay was instrumental in creating bilingual colonial India by adopting English as the medium of instruction in higher education from 6th standard onwards. His  avowed objective was to enrich Indian Languages through English Medium so that "they could become vehicles for European scientific, historic and literary expression."

In his Minutes on Indian Education, delivered in 1935, he stated as under:

"It is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the (Indian) people. We must at present do our best to form a class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of Science borrowed from western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population."

The above thinking formed the basis of the English Education Act, 1835. Unfortunately, Lord Macaulay underestimated us. He wanted to create an EPS cadre for the British administration and enrich Indian languages to take it further to the great masses of the population. Indians might not have enriched their Languages to the desired extent, but have totally adopted the English culture itself and are now termed as Macaulay's children - a term used for people born of Indian ancestry who adopt western culture as a life style, or attitudes influenced by the British.

Cricket commentators say of a player like Sreeshant, you may love him or hate him but you cannot ignore him, it is true of Lord Macaulay as well. The present legal system pillars in India like IPC, CPC and Cr PC still owe their existence to Macaulay. Our children can speak good English and are able to succeed all over the world, though there can be an equal argument about the French, Germans and Russians having succeed as well without adopting English. Karl Marx went to the extent of calling Macaulay as a "Systematic falsifier of History". But Macaulay's changes in Indian Education cannot be dismissed even today.

We have travelled a long way from EPS to 100% and more!!!

Lord Macaulay was a founder Trustee of The National Portrait Gallery of London and has his bust at the main entrance, erected in his honour. He died at the age of 60 due to bad health and many projects on his hand remained unfinished. He was buried in the Westminster Abbey, near the church at which Prince William and Katherine Middleton were recently married. He had no children, but he is not worried because there are enough Indians carrying his legacy and being called Macaulay's children.

They say the last English speaking human being will be found on the shores of India. Very True!


  1. Having helped many weak students, I use to always feel those who are capable should even attempt choices given, myself and vikram we have debated on this subject many times.....sheela

  2. Well written and informative. Yes if India was not colonized and Mecauly hadn't come and introduced English, perhaps things would be different for Indians. Amol Palekar has rightly said, "English is also a regional language. 'English has been the language of a generation of people in the country on a par with any regional language."

    Keep up the good work of writing. Your own blog would be good idea as it can reach more people.

    Best regards,

  3. Extremely informative & well written!


  4. soup will be tasteful if prepared with right ingredients.I must appreciate your efforts in collecting the useful information and delivering it in a style and constructive way.keep it up.


  5. Great insight into some unknown facts !