Marks moderation row: CBSE won't challenge order in Supreme Court, but no end in sight to troubles

The Central Board for Secondary Education, India's biggest educational board, has indicated it will announce results of the Class XII examinations within 48 hours and abide by the Delhi High Court decision that stopped the board from scrapping its marks moderation policy from this year.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The New Delhi-based board took the decision to do away with the policy in April. The move was catastrophic for students seeking higher level exams to professional courses, both in India and abroad.

Thanks to a Delhi High Court order that allowed continuation of the board’s moderation policy, which it adopted in 1992, students from 10,678 schools under CBSE will get extra marks.

But then the board realised that some of the boards used the policy to increase marks, thereby raising the overall pass percentage. As a result, the scores pushed astronomically high cut-offs marks — sometimes touching 100% — for subjects ranging from history to mathematics during admission to sought-after colleges.

The CBSE was unanimous that the process of moderation was grossly unfair. But the decision to scrap it happened after the board examinations were held, a move considered unjust by many affected parties.

The board results are considered the largest stepping stone to higher education because students secure admission to universities based on their CBSE scores.

Prakash Javadekar, who is in charge of the ministry responsible for handling the crisis, said results will not be delayed. “We will not put the students at a disadvantage, the CBSE is on top of it,” says Javedkar. However, he did not explain why the CBSE did not take the decision a year in advance.

The delay — the results were meant to be out on 24 May — had caused tremendous distress to thousands of students appearing for admissions in engineering and medical colleges. Among them were those who had opted to study abroad on the basis of tentative marks issued by their respective schools.

“Now, students next year will be mentally ready because there would be no such additional marks. We are greatly relieved, but this ping pong game could have been avoided,” says Sukanta Chakravarty, whose son appeared for the CBSE Class XII examinations.  "I am happy that this uncertainty over marks is going to end."

CBSE rushed their decision 

The Delhi High Court on 23 May said that doing away of the marks moderation policy was unfair to this year's students who had registered for the exam when the policy was still in place.

The bench of acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Pratibha M Singh asked the CBSE why it could not implement the policy change from next year, as the results of the 2016-2017 exams were expected in a few days.

The court made it clear that the CBSE did not handle the case sensitively and rushed to their decision in April.

Breaking down the arguments 

  1. Grace marks help students who are falling short by a few marks clear their papers.
  2. Different sets have different difficulty levels.
  3. In the garb of 'moderation' marks are inflated.

Until Wednesday, the chances were high that the CBSE would contest the definition of 'moderation'. But it is the delay and uncertainty that caused problems for millions of students, ostensibly because as many as eight states — including Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh — have already declared their results.

Sadly, these students are likely to suffer in the undergraduate admissions because their boards didn’t follow their boards didn't follow the CBSE policy.

How did this trouble begin?

A PIL contended that the policy should not be done away with this year, as decided by some states, since it would affect the students of Class XII who have applied for admissions abroad.

The petition, moved by parent Rakesh Kumar, and advocate Ashish Verma, argued that the policy was changed by way of a notification after the exams were held and that it would have a drastic impact on the students. “The CBSE did not even care to put the notification on its website for a long time. How can someone take things so lightly?” argued Balbir Singh, their advocate.

Singh said the CBSE decision to scrap marks had triggered chaos. “If the decision to scrap marks was followed, the Class XII students may not meet the cut-off of the Delhi University as there could be a decrease in marks by at least 12 to 15 percent.”

“Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have decided to implement the policy change from next year, which should have been the ideal approach,” said Singh. During the hearing, the court was told by Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain that CBSE sought some relief for its Delhi University students, but that plea was declined.

Swati Bhattacharya, whose son appeared for the Class XII examination, says the board took the decision without ensuring a national-level consensus between various state boards which conducted Class X and XII exams.

“I am relieved. The CBSE decision denied a level-playing field to CBSE students, as compared to those of other state boards. I am all for reduction of moderation marks policy but the colleges need to lower their cut off marks as well,” says Bhattacharya.

CBSE's woes aren't over yet

The CBSE is also in the dock over the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET), 2017, following an order from the Madras High Court asking the board not to publish NEET results until 7 June, 2017.

The order from the Madurai bench of the high court followed after Sankalp, an NGO, alleged the test was not conducted in an uniform manner across the country and that question papers were leaked. The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Rajasthan police earlier arrested a Delhi-based gang involved in leaking the NEET question papers.

Sankalp said different question papers were given to students in different parts of the country. One question came with two correct options, while another came with all four multiple choice answers wrong. Worse, the West Bengal government claimed the Bengali question paper was tougher than the English version.

West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee told Firstpost that those who appeared for NEET suffered badly. “We have written to the HRD ministry and CBSE because the promise of identical question papers was not followed and tough questions were framed for the Bengali board students.”

The matter is now being heard in the Supreme Court.

Stuck in the middle is the fate of a little over 11 lakh students in 103 cities who appeared for the examination in 10 languages at 1,921 centres.

That's a large number. And another huge uncertainty.

Published Date: May 26, 2017 19:36 PM | Updated Date: May 26, 2017 20:19 PM

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