Marks and standards: the need for a better evaluation system

The use of moderation by the Central Board of Secondary Education while finalising Class 12 marks under a Delhi High Court directive poses the immediate question of how various State boards of education that have not adopted the practice will respond. It also points to the long-standing challenge of achieving comparability while assessing students for undergraduate studies from different systems. Some boards have already published the results without moderation, while others will resort to the practice, making it necessary for college authorities to make offsets while fixing admission criteria. Another substantive concern is the pattern of testing procedures placing high importance on a single external examination, without an assurance to all students that the same tasks are being assessed on the same standards. Across-the-board use of tools such as moderation also raises questions on the actual scores. It is extraordinary that tests for non-quantitative subjects such as English and Political Science yield perfect scores of 100% in the CBSE examination and elsewhere, giving the impression that the questions require to be answered only within a limited framework laid out in a textbook, leaving little scope for creative responses that reflect the quality of teaching in the classroom.

Moderation of marks under the CBSE policy has been followed partly to offset the ambiguity of questions and any errors, and to achieve parity in the evaluation process and the annual pass percentage. The Central Board recently decided to do away with the practice, in consultation with State boards, and sought the assistance of the Human Resource Development Ministry to make a complete shift. This is something the Ministry should take up on priority, since a consensus among the States would eliminate litigation on grounds of uneven competition — which is what invited judicial intervention on the issue of moderation this year. It is also relevant to point out that the emphasis on a single external examination has heavily influenced the learning process, tailoring it almost entirely to score marks. Built on a foundation of weak primary education, it does little to improve outcomes for the majority of students at the secondary school level. The Annual Status of Education Report, 2016 found, for instance, that among rural students in Class 8, only 43.3% could correctly solve a simple three-digit by one-digit division problem. What this makes clear is that encouraging performance on enrolment of students even in some of the backward States is not the same as achieving high outcomes in actual learning. There is also the issue of access to private tuitions for a better examination score, which affects less-privileged students. It is against the depressing backdrop of such distortions that India’s school system must prepare an evaluation mechanism for students. Reform should recognise the role of the teacher in ensuring genuine learning and encouraging creativity. An external test that evaluates sound learning is the answer, although the challenge is not to stifle educational innovation that individual State boards are capable of.

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Printable version | Aug 28, 2022 12:04:49 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/marks-and-standards-the-need-for-a-better-evaluation-system/article59781255.ece