The normalisation of Plus Two marks of students from various boards is intended to bring them all on an equal footing. But several students from national streams tell G. Mahadevan that they are at a disadvantage compared with those who did the State higher secondary course.

The rank list published by the Commissioner of Entrance Examinations, Kerala, for admission to engineering courses has generated anger and anxiety among parents whose children did their Plus Two in the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Indian School Certificate (ISC) streams.

A general feeling among such parents is that the normalisation process adopted for the preparation of the rank list was skewed in favour of those who did their Plus Two course in the Kerala higher secondary stream. They believe that normalisation was just an exercise in giving an undue advantage for the “Kerala” students. Some parents have reportedly decided to seek a legal remedy for their woes.

The problems facing the students from the national streams predate the rank list. When the Commissioner published the scores of the engineering entrance examinations, many made unofficial rank lists based on those scores. One such “rank list” reportedly went viral on a social-media website. Students and parents started computing their “ranks” from this list. The expectation was that their actual rank after normalisation would hover around this “original rank.” The publication of the real rank list shattered many of these dreams.

“My rank actually went down quite a bit. How can that happen after normalisation?” a student of Loyola School, Thiruvananthapuram, wanted to know. He told The Hindu-EducationPlus that there was a widespread thinking that the scores would go up after normalisation.

An irate student who did his Plus Two in the ISC stream from Sarvodaya Vidyalaya, Thiruvananthapuram, e-mailed The Hindu-EducationPlus that he lost seven marks (from the aggregate marks for maths, physics, and chemistry) after normalisation, and thus dropped nearly 3,000 places on the rank list.

A couple of parents said the total marks for physics and chemistry in the Kerala stream was 120.

The marks scored out of 120 were converted to scores out of 100. This, they argued, gave the students from the State syllabus an advantage.

Mean scores

This year's mean for mathematics in the Kerala stream was 57.64, while the figures for the CBSE and the ISC streams were 62.7 and 69.05, respectively. For physics, the Kerala mean was 72.39, while the CBSE and the ISC streams had 63.71 and 66.63, respectively. For chemistry, the figures were 69.5, 66.26, and 65.41, respectively. A senior official associated with the normalisation process explained that each subject — maths, physics, and chemistry — was normalised separately. “The mean of the Kerala higher secondary for maths was lower than those of the ISC and the CBSE streams, while those for physics and chemistry were higher. So when maths was normalised, the scores of the national syllabi went down. At the same time, the scores of the national syllabi went up for physics and chemistry. Next year, if it so happens that the Kerala average for all three subjects is higher, the scores of all students from other streams will go up,” he said.

G. Harilal, a State government employee whose child did Plus Two in the CBSE stream is not convinced.

“The CBSE and the ISC students who score full marks for mathematics will get only 90.4753 and 90.4046 marks, respectively, after this process of normalisation. In other words, no CBSE or ISC student is eligible for more than 90 per cent marks. But it is very well clear and true that a good number of students can easily score full marks for Kerala Plus Two maths paper. Now Kerala Plus Two students will get the marks they score. But even if a CBSE or ISC student score 100 per cent marks, he or she is eligible only for 90 per cent marks. It is a false and shocking hypothesis that no CBSE or ISC student is intelligent enough to score full marks for maths in the Kerala higher secondary exam,” he told The Hindu-EducationPlus in an e-mail.

Upward shift

When told about the upward shift in marks for physics and chemistry for national syllabi students, Mr. Harilal shot back that the upward shift had been capped at 100 marks. “When you bring down the marks for maths, there is no limit. Likewise, if after normalisation, the physics score of an ISC candidate was 108, they should have given that score. They gave only 100. How fair is that?,” he asked.

Some parents and students argued that the CBSE and the ISC streams, particularly the latter, had qualitatively better and tougher syllabi. “A student cannot get runaway marks in these examinations. So, if such students' marks come down after normalisation, no matter what the reason, they will only end up getting thoroughly demoralised and shattered,” said a Thiruvananthapuram-based schoolteacher whose daughter did the Plus Two from the ISC stream.

No review

Acuthsankar S. Nair and R.V.G. Menon, members of the entrance reforms committee which suggested the 50:50 weight for entrance examination scores and marks in the Plus Two examinations and the process of normalisation, told The Hindu-EducationPlus that a review of the decision to factor in the Plus Two marks for preparing the engineering rank list was not required.

“The formula for normalization can always be reviewed. If there is a better way, that can be adopted. The government should immediately look into that,” Mr. Nair said.