CPI: Convincing Proof of Intelligence

CPI diversity. Its classification exhibits some amazing ramifications and there are many facets that still remain to be charted. We have thinkers, philosophers, mathematicians, physicists and other professions that are all marked by some or the other particular type of intelligence. Nevertheless, the distribution is never pristine and every human has such a significant share of different faculties that there exists no commonly accepted watertight system to fairly rate intelligence in its entirety. A very popular system for the purpose, followed all over the country in prominent academic institutes and gaining more popularity as days go by, is a student’s CPI.

CPI has a peculiar impact on students. Those who are
successful with the system tend to extol it as a foolproof
system for sifting out bright minds while those who
are unsuccessful with it are inadvertently critical of it.
While the explanation for the divide in opinion is an
entirely different issue, I hereby attempt to present an
objective and logical discussion of how strongly reality
is aligned along the judgement one’s CPI exudes. While
there are many criteria that a system has to satisfy for
it to be called comprehensive and fair, the discussion
begins from the lowest rung and concludes with answering
the final question of how likely a student with
a good CPI will succeed in their life.

CPI is indeed tenable at first glance. You take certain
courses and you are rated against your performance in
those courses. So, if a person interpreting it is aware of
the narrow verdict that your CPI telecasts, then it is fair.
But the opinion arouses a sense of misgiving if this interpretation
is extended any further. Alas, CPI is always
subjected to such extrapolations. Recruiters invariably
correlate your CPI to your expected success or failure
at the workplace. However, if you lift your gaze a little
further to observe the interplay of more phenomena,
this conclusion begins to fall apart. For instance, there
are students who are unable to perform in quizzes and
assignments but excel at solving real problems (such as
course projects) that require a holistic approach rather
than the practised approaches most courses preach. But
since the weightage of course projects alone is low, their
grades suffer. Such a student is bound to lose interest in
the age-old game of quizzes and assignments that test
your ability to regurgitate information upon request.

The other few reasons that buttress the arguments in
favour of CPI are that it’s the participants themselves
who choose to enrol themselves into the system and
hence the onus lies upon them to bear any misleads
that it dictates. But if we dig deeper, we realise that
there is a fairly subtle trap hidden within this rationale.
The admission to these institutes is guarded by exams
that are considered the most selective of their kind. But,
surprisingly, the same students who prove their mettle
in these entrance exams suffer in the academic system
in these institutes. So, a doubt that first inhibits you
is that CPI caters to a different breed of students than
those caressed by competitive exams – a trap many fall
prey to. Students are caught unawares by the fact that
the ability that got them into IITB may not help them
sustain their stay here. They are subjected to a salvo of
adaptations to fit the system. In many cases, the misfit is
so prominent that their CPI makes their choice to study
at IITB look like a rash foray.

Another feature of CPI is its relative nature which is
making students make a mad dash for it and develop a
blinkered vision in the process. This system of relative
grading keeps everyone on a perennial vigil. The incessant
need to keep up prompts them to study only that
which can potentially improve their CPI – glossing over
the depths of their course topics. The urge to understand
takes a back-seat, conditional to the availability
of time which never comes – again one of the pitfalls
of the relative grading system. So, these are perfect settings
to drastically reduce your chances of experiencing
moments of epiphany which both assuage and stoke curiosity
at the same time. It is the competition that drives
the system where you ought to be running all the time
and not stand still at any moment and make an effort
to understand nuances that spark ingenuity. The pace
inherent to the system causes students to stay tactical
and to quite some extent, robotic in their approach.
Everybody realises that when you are sprinting towards
a goal, you can afford neither to wander, nor to wonder.

As Einstein once remarked, “If you judge a fish by its
ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing
that it is stupid”, and people continually realise at
some point of time that they are in the wrong place. In
such cases, while CPI does discount human uniqueness
that falls beyond its narrow spectrum; there is intelligence
abound that it cannot fathom. CPI then gets
reduced into a vicious process of stereotyping, judging
everybody with the same yardstick; for the same hues
of temperament and letting the individual bright sides
fade into inconsequential traits. While this is a case of
intelligence smothered, there is the same story at the
other end of the line where an ability to work hard, stay
disciplined, find loopholes in the system and manipulate
it to boost CPI is frequently misunderstood for intelligence.

In summary, what CPI truly reflects is one’s ability to
work hard; more so an ability to get the job done, imbibe
it as the then purpose of life and live by it. Such
traits are not very strong indicators of intelligence that
is the leading light of our civilisation. Intelligence, one
that is marked by ingenuity and a restive and curious
mind seeks space where it can be spontaneous and does
not thrive in the pressurised atmosphere of CPI. Nonetheless
the need for rating is a necessary bane of the
contemporary world and CPI becomes indispensable.
We are a developing society and still in the hunt for a
wholesome metric of intelligence – and we have a long
way to go until we have one. Until then we will have to
bear with the imperfections of the system. Until then,
every report card should carry a disclaimer like information
sites where they disown any responsibility for
any mistake. A disclaimer that says, “CPI catches only a
glimpse of a candidate’s ability, a glimpse so small that
it is just the tip of the iceberg – just what the candidate
sees. One must always use one’s discretion as a supplement.”
Then maybe one can hope that people may not
succumb to the heuristics suggested by CPI and attempt
to see all the sides of a candidate’s ability.

The above article was written by Jitendra Sahu for the InsIghT magazine of IIT- Bombay. Read the original article here.