Sleepless nights, tension even after getting 95 % and above  

This is probably what students eyeing for seats in Delhi University (DU) colleges must be going through these days. The reason: DU’s undergraduate admission is likely to see a new high thanks to the high scores in the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) exams.


In the 2014 Class 12 CBSE results.

SCORED -95% and above is 8,971,up by nearly 3000

scored-90% and above-59,591,up by 15,000(crossing the 50,000 mark for the first time ever in the history of board exam)

scored-99% in economics=500 Students

scored 100% in chemistry-622 Students

scored-99 % and above In biology, 791 students

scored 98% and above in physics while 480 students.

Reports indicated that most colleges will set the cut-offs in their first lists above 95%.

"The exams don't assess the students' ability to think originally."

One of the main reasons for such high marks is the CBSE’s liberal marking system, which the board introduced in 2006 after it came under pressure because of incidents of academic pressure-related suicides. Under the new scheme, the emphasis became more on objective questions, evaluators were told how to award marks and question papers were set with well-defined answers. But the irony of the situation is that what it set out to correct (too much pressure on students) has spawned another set of problems that is giving students sleepless nights.

This year, the CBSE made things even easier for students. 
  • It decided to overlook poor expressions and spelling mistakes. 
  • According to the new scheme, the Board also gives the examiners the liberty to award full marks to a student for a single-word answer provided it "constituted the core of the answer".
  •  Similarly, the so-called glass ceiling in subjects like history and economics has also been broken as evaluators are told to discard their fixation with deducting at least one mark from a seemingly complete answer. 

 Ironically, other factors introduced by the Board to relieve the pressure on students like internal assessment have also indirectly contributed to the high scores. This year, 20 marks were allotted to project work for social sciences. Next year, maths practicals will be made mandatory.


                   WHY SO HIGH ?
SCIENTIFIC FORMAT: Paper setting and assessment made more objective even for subjects like English and social sciences.
LENIENT APPROACH: No marks are deducted for spelling mistakes and poor expression.
LIBERAL MARKING: Teachers are told to give marks wherever "possible".
SIMPLIFIED PAPERS: Number of difficult questions reduced.
SHORTCUT METHOD: Focus on covering points rather than analysis/arguments.
LESS STRESS: Duration of an exam reduced from three hours to twoand-a-half hours.
MULTIPLE MARKING: Move towards internal assessment by school teachers. 
  • Coming year after year, experts say, high scores have begun to affect on the credibility of the marking system and 
  • Have also mounted enormous pressure on the university system as well as on students.
  •  Even universities are beginning to rethink their admission criteria, instead of blindly following cut-off percentages that can, at times, be as high as 95 per cent for English among better Delhi colleges.
  • The CBSE’s marking system also has had a domino effect: other boards and state boards are opting for liberal marking so that their students also have a fair chance in DU admissions.

NCERT Director Professor Krishna Kumar, who has been at the helm of affairs of the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), believes this "inflationary trend" in marks is unfortunate. His point: "Liberal marking should not pass off as child-friendly examination reform."
 Anil Wilson, principal of St Stephen's College, Delhi, concurs, adding that there is "wide disparity between aptitude and marks". 
He says, "Gradually, colleges will have to move away from using Board examinations as the only parameter for assessment." Already, Delhi colleges have introduced entrance examinations for subjects like English.

INTERNAL EVALUATION: Increase the role of schools in the final assessment by giving more weightage to practicals and projects.
TEST ARGUMENTATIVE ABILITIES: Increase the number of analytical questions.
PROVIDE MULTIPLE CHECKS: Introduce team evaluation as opposed to single-teacher evaluation.
FOCUS ON INDIVIDUAL MERIT: Move away from the aggregate-based system to measuring subject proficiency.
COMPARATIVE ASSESSMENT: Evaluate performance through percentiles calculated at the national level rather than at the state level. 

The DU has started keeping abnormally high cut-offs
Reports indicated that most colleges will set the cut-offs in their first lists above 95%. The first cut off list will be released tomorrow, followed by up to nine more lists, depending on seat availability, till July 21. While the total number of applications in DU is around 270,000, the number of seats available is 54,000.

 Both school and college teachers often complain that such 95+ marks do not reflect a student’s calibre. 

 Teachers have often told the media that they are being “forced” to award high marks even to undeserving students and this is one of the main reasons why students are not found employable even after graduating from top colleges.

In an interview HRD minister Smriti Irani has said that the government will work on a new education policy. The new policy must try to redress the current situation that has developed due to uneven marking across boards and debate what CNR Rao, former scientific adviser to the UPA, had suggested some years ago: An all-India common entrance test for higher education, including medical and technical courses.

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