More than two weeks after it cancelled the Class XII exam conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Examination (CBSE), the Centre on Thursday (17 June) submitted to the Supreme Court its scheme to decide final marks for students of 2021 batch.
As per the formula, which has been accepted by the apex court, the assessment for subjects is divided into two parts — theory and practical/internal assessment. The marks in the latter will be allotted as per what the schools have reported to the board.
For the theory portion, final marks will be based on the marks in Class X (30 per cent weightage), theory marks in Class XI (30 per cent weightage) and theory marks in Class XII (40 per cent weightage).
For 30 per cent component of Class X, students will get marks based on best three performing subjects out of the main five subjects. For Class XI, theory marks in final exams will be considered. For 40 per cent component of Class XII, total marks will be decided on the basis of combined performance in unit tests, mid-term and pre-board exam (weightage of each to be decided by schools).
In short, this means that Class for XII subjects which have practical component, final marks will be overwhelmingly decided by performance in the current academic year. For theory-only subjects, weightage of Class X and Class XI will matter more. (As explained in the 2nd table below)
The scheme proposed by the Centre wouldn’t stand legal scrutiny in a country which values ‘rule of law’. But in India, even the Supreme Court accepts it without giving much of a thought and as if the scheme doesn’t involve a substantial question of law to be pondered upon.
Let me indulge in hyperbole for a moment to underscore the importance of the underlying principle in the CBSE case.
Let’s assume that second wave of Covid-19 had hit India before the assembly elections to five states and the Election Commission of India cancelled the polls and devised a novel policy where it announced that the winners of assembly constituencies in states will be decided on the basis of weighted average of votes received by the parties in each constituency.
I am certain that if the aforementioned scenario were to pan out, the highest court of India wouldn’t be so nonchalant about it as it is in the CBSE episode. Nor will be the people. And certainly not the politicians who would have worked for the last five years on the justified assumption that their fate will be decided on the basis of their current performance not the past record.
But in the CBSE case, it’s kosher. The reason is simple. The judiciary in this country has become habitual of following the repugnant policy of ‘show me the person and I will show you the law’. The law doesn’t decide the course of things. Rather, the things (or the people affected by the said things) decide the law.
Moreover, it appears to work on the principle of least resistance which means that when it comes to choosing between what’s right and what’s convenient, it tends to pick the latter more often than not — by acts of omission as well as commission. Unfortunately, the conscience keeper of the Constitution is not untouched by heady mix of populism and media limelight just like the politicians.
The CBSE policy is not just arbitrary but unfair too. Changing the rules of the game at the very end would be considered preposterous in a big boys game. But since the children are involved here, no one bats an eye. It’s pertinent here to refer to the infamous Vodafone retrospective taxation case which earned worldwide opprobrium for the government of India. The CBSE policy is reminiscent of the same violation of retrospective rule.
In short, when students entered Class XII, their only expectation (based on years of conduct of the CBSE) was that they will be evaluated on the basis of their performance during the academic session. While the methods of assessment can change, this foundational principle should not have been broken.
CBSE could have simply tabulated the final results on the basis of internal theory and practical marks scored by the students in their respective schools in this academic year only. It is anyway ensuring standardisation for 40 per cent weightage of Class XII marks. (See below for details)
This would have been good enough to check marks inflation by schools. Giving weightage of Class X and Class XI marks makes the whole process unnecessarily complex. Moreover, since only marks of three best subjects out of five are considered, this is going to smoothen the differences further between the top performers (say who do well in science and mathematics) and average ones (say those who may have done well in English, Hindi and social science).
Nonetheless, the policy provides that those who are unsatisfied with the scheme can opt to sit for a standardised exam in a few weeks so that should take care of most of unsatisfied students.
Nonetheless, what’s done is done and this policy is going to be implemented. It’s also clear that this is highly flawed. So, the point to ponder now is how to make this year’s Class XII marks totally irrelevant as a criteria to get admission into colleges. Thankfully, the government is already thinking in this direction.
For admissions into IITs, NITs, IIITs and other CFTIs for 2021-22, the Ministry of Education has already decided to waive off the 75 per cent marks (in Class XII exam) eligibility criteria.
It’s pertinent to note that before 2017-18, JEE Main rank list used to be prepared after finding a composite score of JEE Main scores and normalised marks of Class XII board exams in the ratio of 60:40. The Narendra Modi government‘s decision to do away with this 40 per cent weightage to CBSE board exams marks was one of the biggest reforms to admissions to top technical institutions in National Democratic Alliance's (NDA’s) first term. Instead the government had mandated that all those scoring above 75 per cent will be eligible to sit for JEE. For the present year, this has been done away with.
That leaves out many other colleges (for instance, those affiliated to Delhi University) which rely exclusively on Class XII boards marks and those like Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) which conduct their own entrance exams. It’s important that the National Testing Agency (NTA) conducts a standardised test for humanities courses. Thankfully, the government is giving a serious consideration to this. It’s contemplating conducting a centralised common entrance test (like JEE and NEET) in the July-August period for admission to various non-technical programmes at the undergraduate level in universities such as DU, JNU, Aligarh Muslim University, etc.
The idea of a single entrance exam has not been thought of due to the pandemic. It’s exactly what the National Education Policy has envisioned and proposed. There cannot be a better time to implement it. It’s critical that admissions this year take place on pure merit and that can only be done when the compromised Class XII board exam marks are made irrelevant and replaced with better entrance tests.
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