Search This Blog

Thursday, May 25, 2017

HC insists on CBSE Moderation of Marks

CBSE has been increasing marks obtained by students for the last several years. People interested in knowing the details of this must visit this blog. Officially the claim was that "moderation" was to ensure that students don't suffer because of an ambiguous or poorly designed question, an unusually tough paper, etc., and also the marks distribution across the years should be comparable. In reality, there is no evidence that CBSE has ever produced that the increase in marks were related to any of these. People have been quoted as saying that marks were increased to ensure that Delhi students have a  fair chance of admission to colleges of Delhi University. So you could have attempted questions worth 70 marks, but you may actually receive 80 marks.

All this was accepted by everyone in Delhi as long as CBSE was inflating more than others. And usually, CBSE was inflating marks of Delhi students more than marks of outside Delhi students. To enable this difference, CBSE would actually prepare a different paper for Delhi and a different one for the rest of India, and could claim that Delhi students will have larger increase since Delhi paper was more difficult. No evidence of difficult was ever deemed necessary (since the goal appeared to be admission to DU).

Last year, we suddenly had a large number of students from Tamilnadu board take admission in SRCC, one of the premier colleges of DU. It was in national media, and it was felt by many that from this year onward, students from TN board (and other boards with large number of high scoring students) would seek admission in large numbers. The situation is explained nicely by this blog.

CBSE had two options: One, to continue playing the game and inflate marks even more to compete with some of the worst boards of the country, and reduce its own reputation and quality in the bargain. Two, to admit defeat, cry in front of MHRD that others are beating them in their own game, and try to put pressure on all boards to not inflate marks. The third option of going back to being an honest board, and let the universities worry about the fairness in their respective admission processes, perhaps did not occur to the leadership.

So a meeting was called of all the boards and most of the boards decided that there will be no moderation from this year. Here in lies the difficulty. CBSE has never admitted to increasing marks arbitrarily (except grace marks for increasing the pass percentage). Indeed, no board has publicly admitted to this. Everyone claims that what they do is moderation. Not, it is obvious that moderation is the good aspect of conducting an exam, and must continue. And what was going on for last 10-15 years was not moderation but arbitrary increase of marks.

If officially, there was no arbitrary increase of marks, then how can a board say that we are stopping such a practice. The boards could not publicly admit that they were falsifying the marks all these years, and this practice of falsification will now stop. So they used euphemism and said that they will stop moderation. We were all supposed to interpret it as there will be no falsification of marks, and we did. However, this euphemism did not pass the High Court test.

A parent took the matter to the Delhi High Court, and Delhi HC correctly ruled that moderation is an important and necessary part of conducting a large public exam and without this, there may be serious repercussions on the students. Note that Delhi HC has not said that falsification of marks must continue this year. It has only said that moderation must continue this year. The final verdict will come later, but the chances are that the court will insist that moderation continues even in future. (The court even quotes Supreme Court on this.) So the ruling changes nothing for CBSE, and CBSE could have declared the result saying that they did consider moderation after the HC ruling but there was no need.

But I have a feeling that CBSE would continue its policy of falsification of marks this year too. They have been pretty desperate to find ways to ensure that a large number of DU seats are taken by CBSE students. They even wrote to Delhi University Vice Chancellor to give appropriate weight to CBSE marks in the admission process, since other boards were inflating the marks. This was bound to be rejected by DU, and they did. After the result of TN Board was declared the desperation in CBSE only grew, and the HC interim ruling has come as a huge relief to CBSE. Now, they can continue to falsify marks to ensure a greater number of CBSE students in DU.

I find some of the reactions to the Court ruling very interesting. The foremost is that the courts have saved student careers, because without the increased marks, students would have faced serious problems. And why would they face problems. Because other boards increase marks arbitrarily. OK. So let us accept that other boards do it. What is the solution. Is a race to the bottom a solution to this problem. Should people be shouting at CBSE and insisting that they falsify marks. Shouldn't the job of a board be to show you the mirror, give you an honest feedback. Falsification of marks can only lead to (and already leading) erosion in quality of education. If marks are falsified by other boards, we must go to the universities and tell them not to use falsified marks. May be have standardized tests, or their own admission tests, or something else. But how many people will write to DU versus how many people will write to CBSE. Forcing CBSE to cheat is easier than forcing DU to do the right thing. Everyone in India understands that asking someone to do wrong is easier than forcing someone to do right. And hence everyone is after CBSE and not DU.

Let us restate this argument. I have seen students getting undeserved marks for the last 15 years. So I planned my future education and career based on the assumption that I too will enjoy undeserved marks. If I was told one year ago that undeserved marks will be removed, I would have planned something over this one year. So CBSE must roll back the decision of not giving undeserved marks.

This is dangerously similar to the following. Over the last 15 years, I have seen lots of people getting cash which is undeclared to income tax. So I planned my future finances based on the assumption that I too will enjoy my ill gotten wealth. If I was told one year ago that all cash will be demonetized, I would have planned something over this one year. So RBI must roll back the decision to demonetize.

Just imagine the chaos that would have happened if courts had agreed to this argument last November.

And of course the latest news is that CBSE might go to Supreme Court.  This is stupid. The HC has only said that you must have moderation. It has not said that you must have falsification of marks. Falsification was never an announced policy anyway. So just quietly stop falsification, take the high moral ground, and force people to complain to Delhi University. The problem is of DU. They are the ones accepting falsified marks. Why should CBSE care if its competitors are corrupt or not. Why should CBSE care that the corrupt practices of its competitors are hurting its own customers. As a government board, it can just start doing the right thing and not do corrupt things itself to counter the corrupt practices of others.

No comments: