A systematic failure

THE MARKS MODERATION POLICY AND VARIED GRACE MARKS AMONG VARIOUS BOARDS WAS MISUSED TO SHOW BETTER PERFORMANCES. IT PUTS THE STUDENTS AT RISK

THE CBSE cannot hold, everything seems to be in chaos. The Delhi High Court (HC) asked the Central Board of Secondary Education to retain the moderation policy for Class X and XII exams, which hikes the marks of the students. This forced the board to withhold the results as all the papers. Millions of students will have to be re-evaluated. However, Delhi University (DU) has begun its admission process for the under-graduate courses. The Class XII CBSE students and their parents are obviously anxious.

The human resources development minister, Prakash Javedekar has consoled students that the result would be on time, but it’s already May 26 and last year the result was declared on May 21. Looking at the scenario, the Indian universities may wait, but what about those students who have applied in foreign universities? Worse, if the marks come out without moderation, i.e. lower than expected.
Patriot/ PTI

There are other complications. Several state boards, like Punjab, Karnataka and Kerala, have announced their results. They, in line with the earlier decision taken along with CBSE, did away with the moderation policy in the evaluations. Logically, the pass percentages in Punjab and Karnataka, as well as the overall percentages in the various subjects, came down by 7-14%. In Kerala, they went up despite the non-moderation. These students may now clamour for a reevaluation under the moderation policy, so that they are on a level-playing field. Balbir Singh Dhol, who was heading the Punjab board, has resigned under the wake of the current context, following the instruction of the chief minister Amarinder Singh.

Add to this the media reports that the CBSE is likely to challenge the HC order in the Supreme Court. Now, the students will need to wait for the apex court’s decision, which can go either way. The chaos compounds. However, the confusion is a direct result of the CBSE’s hurried decision. On April 24, 2017, just a month before it was to announce its results on May 24, the CBSE with 31 state boards, decided to scrap the marks moderation policy (MMP), which started in 1992.

The fact that the decision wasn’t thought through was clear when CBSE asked DU to give weightage to the (possibly lower) marks scored by its students. The board felt that the latter would be at a disadvantage against students, whose boards followed MMP and, thus, gave higher marks. This was before the HC order, and it highlighted that the board felt that the non-MMP decision would create a skew against certain sets of students.

The idea behind MMP was good. It was introduced because of several factors: evaluators’ different marking style and the need to standardise them; and, that students should be rewarded if they attempted the tough questions in different question paper sets. In practice, the policy was abused and misused. It was largely used by the various boards to give higher mark to their students to both improve the overall pass percentages, and prove that their students were better than the others. The result: percentages zoomed in the last few years and masked students’ true potential.

Recently, Assam’s education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma revealed that the state board manipulated the pass percentages of Class X students. Last year, the CBSE too gave an extra 16 marks each in mathematics to students, and Punjab gave a grace of 27 marks each to Class X students. As per media reports, CBSE’s 95%-plus club grew 23 times from 384 in 2008 to 8,971 in 2014. Thus, colleges like Shri Ram College of Commerce and Lady Shri Ram College for Women announced a 100.75% (Economics-H for non-commerce students) and 100.5% (Psychology) cut-off in 2011 and 2015, respectively. This pushed the students into a rat race, as they gave up co-curricular activities, took multiple tuitions, and preferred to learn by rote, rather than understand the concepts. Globally, a balanced weightage is maintained between curriculum and co-curricular activities, and the choice of subject combination is also independent.

After April 24, while some welcomed the non-moderation move, others condemned it for taking the decision without prior and adequate notice to the students. Patriot spoke to parents of the CBSE students, who explained that the irregularity of the board’s decisions had impacted their children’s future. Moyna Jana, a mother of a college-goer now, said that the board lacked clarity. Initially, the CBSE made board exams optional for Class X, then it wanted to re-introduce board exams in Class V and VIII, which it never did.

 A student, who didn’t sit for the Class X board in 2015 — the year it was scrapped — revealed that he was among the brightest students in his school. But possibly because of the lack of experience in appearing for board exams, his Class XII results were not up to the expectations. Consequently, he could not get admission in a better college, and is now studying in a private one and, that too, after going through a year of coaching.

Another mother, Geeta Devi talks about the unfairness of having the first brush with board exams in Class X, “The first time students get to choose their subjects in Class XI, which depends on the result of Class X. The latter is the first external evaluation, and the results differ from the internal ones. Students should get an idea of external evaluation beforehand, may be in Class IX or VIII. One needs to replace the final exam with external one.”

The article is the updated version of what was published in Patriot

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