New Delhi: It has become easier for students to score 100 marks in subjects under the increasingly lenient marking of Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Class 12 examination, even as state boards continue to be strict. This has put scores of state board students at a disadvantage when competing for prestigious colleges, like in Delhi University.
This year, the CBSE introduced questions carrying two to three marks — earlier the minimum marks for a question stood at five — and objective-type questions, opening the way for students to score more marks. At least one-third of all questions also offered students an alternative.
The number of students who secured more than 450 marks was the highest this year — 94,299 as compared to 2018, when 72,599 students scored in that category, and 2017, when 63,247 students scored more than 450.
Only two students from this batch have fallen one mark short of scoring a perfect 500 in the Class 12 exams, while three have scored 498, and 18 students have scored 495.
“When it comes to admissions in DU, students from CBSE already have an advantage over others, because students of no other board get the kind of marks that CBSE ones get,” said Subodh Kumar, a Delhi University professor who has been involved in the process of admission.
“Every year, almost 90 per cent of the students who get admission in DU are from CBSE,” he added.
Admissions at DU make headlines each year, with the cutoffs for some of the most popular courses, like economics, commerce and English, soaring as high as 98 per cent. DU offers nearly 55,000 seats at the undergraduate level, with over 3 lakh students applying each year.
The CBSE, however, defended its marking system. “Students are getting more marks and scoring 100 even in humanities subjects because the board has decided to give marks for technique, innovation and the method of attempting a question,” a senior board official told ThePrint. “If a science student can get full marks, why can’t a humanities student? In order to make things more uniform, we are giving full marks in languages as well.”
CBSE vs states
CBSE alumni from the years past will testify how they took it for granted that languages and arts subjects could never yield a 100 per cent.
However, the marks CBSE toppers have been registering over the past few years—many missing perfect scores by less than a mark—are proof of how things have changed.
One of the the toppers this year, Hansika Shukla, is a humanities student who has scored 100 marks in all subjects except English. Last year, Meghna Srivastava of Noida had pulled off a similar feat.
A revised CBSE marking scheme introduced this year asked examiners to not deduct students’ marks if they were answering questions with creativity and innovation, the aim being to reduce cramming, which has long been identified as one of the biggest impediments in the Indian education system.
The revised scheme epitomised how attitudes towards classroom learning have shifted over the years, but the soaring scores have their critics.
Though boards in Gujarat, Kerala, and Madhya Pradesh have eased their marking norms to an extent, they are still stricter than the CBSE and deduct marks for things like not writing book-prescribed answers.
A comparison of CBSE marks with other boards clearly shows the gap.
The Uttar Pradesh Board Class 12 topper secured 97.80 per cent this year, while last year’s got 93.20 per cent. This year’s result for the Gujarat board is still awaited, but last year’s topper scored 99.92 per cent. While 23 CBSE students have scored 99 per cent and above, only seven had the score in Gujarat last year.
In Madhya Pradesh, the 2018 topper scored 98.4 per cent, while this year’s results are yet to be declared.
Some boards like Tamil Nadu’s do not even declare the list of toppers as a policy to keep students stress-free.
Some experts feel the CBSE is being more generous with marks to bolster its popularity. “The board gives more marks on purpose because they want to look better than other boards,” said an official of the Rajasthan Board.
“The idea behind the CBSE was to have a single board across the country for a uniform pattern of study… However, India still has a number of state boards and the CBSE constantly makes attempts to look better than them,” he added.
The Human Resource Development Ministry has also tried in the past to stop the practice of “score spiking” in the CBSE. A practice that can end up getting students up to 30 more marks, spiking is practised by other boards too.
Former HRD secretary Anil Swarup wrote in his book ‘Not Just a Civil Servant’ that he had tried to stop the practice, but failed.
As he explains in his book, spiking of marks is a phenomenon under which a child with 16 per cent in a particular subject could pass with grace marks (around 5 percent).
“There was another problem with this. Almost every student got 10 per cent marks more than what he actually deserved. This led to a situation where a large number of students scored 95 percent in CBSE as this was the ceiling of ‘spiking’ set by CBSE,” he adds.
At a meeting on the matter, he writes, almost all “states and union territories… agreed that this pernicious practice should be stopped but they were compelled to continue as others would not stop”.