Do not distort students' performance

All kinds of tampering with marks scored must stop

The human resource development ministry’s advisory to the CBSE and state school education boards to do away with the practice of ‘spiking’ marks in the Class X and Class XII board examinations in 2018 is a welcome step. It will ensure, in a limited way, fairness and equality in the evaluation of students. Spiking is a practice by which school boards inflate the marks of candidates in order to bring parity in pass percentage with the previous year’s results or to beat the pass percentage of other boards. It gives a wrong picture of the students’ performance by artificially boosting it. The practice of inflating marks in various ways had received attention earlier this year at the time of admission to colleges. The CBSE had complained that its students suffer because other boards inflate marks. All the boards had a grouse because each thought its students were victims of the inflation policies of other boards. So, they had, in principle, decided to do away with the practice.

But the advisory is limited to only one kind of marks tampering. It will not put an end to all types of marks inflation. The practice of awarding ‘grace’ marks will continue for students who need a few marks to pass the examination. All boards also have a ‘moderation’ policy by which students get extra marks in subjects that are considered very difficult or if there are differences in the sets of question papers. These are all unfair means adopted by boards to show themselves in a better light. All of them distort the performance of students. To declare a student who has got less than the required marks as having passed the exam with the help of grace marks is being unfair to other students. Giving extra marks by way of moderation for difficult subjects or different sets of question papers shows that there is no well thought out policy on the subjects to be taught and no proper understanding of the abilities of students. Sometimes, questions are deliberately made difficult so that marks moderation can be applied. All these are signs of the failure to evolve an objective, efficient and humane examination system.

When central or state boards follow their own rules, there is no level playing field for students. This hurts students at a time when there is increasing academic migration and national level testing is becoming the norm for admission to higher academic programmes. Therefore, all practices that distort students’ performance, whether resulting from a sense of unhealthy competition or from misplaced kindness, should be done away with. A truly level, humane and objective examination and evaluation system does not require any of them.

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