Boards spiking marks to help IIT aspirants?

The average score of a student from the Maharashtra State Board of Education who appeared for JEE (Main) went up by over 5 percentage points from 2014 to 2015. In West Bengal, it went up from 65% in 2013 and 2014 to 73% in 2015.

Similarly, the average board percentage of those from Maharashtra who were among the one lakh shortlisted for JEE (Advanced), went up from 86% to 89% in the same period. In Bengal, the corresponding figure rose from 86-87% to 90%.

Maharashtra and West Bengal are not isolated cases. An analysis done by a committee on the class XII board scores of students who appeared for JEE (Main) and JEE (Advanced) over the last three years (2013, 2014 and 2015) shows a rising graph (see box inside) across state and national boards that has begun to worry academics.

Scoring 99-point-something in the all-important Class XII board exam, once an unattainable task, is now a routine phenomenon, raising serious questions about the manner in which students are being assessed. Are boards becoming lenient, as suggested by TOI in an earlier article which reported the extra 16 marks given in maths to CBSE students across the country? How can the highest score in any board exam, especially at the class XII level, miss the perfect 100 by just two to four marks?

Barring three to four boards in the north-east, all the other boards have recorded a growth in the average percentage scored by students who were taking the engineering entrance tests. Average scores of students from the national boards such as the CBSE and the Council for Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) also went up by 2-3% in the three years. Maharashtra, Bihar, Rajasthan, Punjab, and West Bengal, are some of the states to have seen a significant jump in the average score.

However, the administrators of the board deny that marks are being doled out liberally. Gangadhar Mhamane, chairperson, Maharashtra board, said, “Inflation of marks in our board is not happening. We award grace marks only to students with special needs and sports persons. In fact, students prefer the CBSE and ICSE schools as students from those schools are known to get higher scores. In the state board, only 20 marks are assigned for internal exams which are given by the schools.”

CBSE school principals also attribute the increase in average scores to better awareness and focus. “Today no one wants to go to the second best college. Hence, preparations is focused and starts early. Teachers too are helping students with a lot of board exam specific preparation and parents are pushing the children too. Grace marks are given only in case of a very tough paper or if students have difficulty clearing the exam,” said a principal.
Some, however, suspect that the weightage which IITs, NITs and other centrally-funded technical institutes (CFTIs) give to board scores while calculating all-India ranks of students in JEE (Main) is responsible for class XII exam assessment getting more liberal. Since 2013, the IITs have changed their eligibility criteria to declare any student with 75% and above or falling in the top 20 percentile of their boards as eligible for an IIT seat, provided they clear the JEE.

Incidentally, the committee that analysed class XII scores has said that “since these are the candidates who are likely to get engineering seats in the CFTIs, the change in the board marks averages over years is a likely indicator of the boards becoming lenient over time”.

Based on the findings of this committee, which were submitted to MHRD, the chairperson of the JEE (Main) apex board, Ashok Misra, had recommended that board scores should not be accounted for while granting all-India ranks. Misra said having eligibility criteria of 75% or 65% marks in board was a better way of filtering students than giving weightage. This recommendation of the committee was accepted by the MHRD early this year. Educationists are now hoping that the practice of doling out of marks just to give ‘their’ students an edge over the others will be discontinued from next year.
Source : Times of india

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