The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has formed two committees to look into the complaints of discrepancies in the results of its Class X and Class XII examinations this year, reports say. One of these will specifically address the grievances that have come up this year, the other will look for ways to make the examination system more robust.
While such a step is more than welcome, it comes somewhat late in the day, after the board's apathy had become evident to many through its behaviour towards aggrieved students over the last few weeks.
On 28 May, CBSE announced the results of the Class XII examinations, much delayed by a couple of reasons. Apart from waiting for the assembly elections in several states to finish, a change in one of its policies left students and parents upset. The board decided to scrap a provision of awarding grace marks for attempting significantly difficult questions, a move that the Delhi High Court asked it to retract after a petition filed by students and parents.
The real woes, however, hit the student population once the results were announced. Thousands across the country complained of unexpectedly low marks, alleged wrong totalling, incomplete or awaiting results and demanded the answer scripts to be re-examined. As The Telegraph said, of the 14 lakh students who wrote the Class XII examinations, 2.47% asked for their scripts to be reviewed. The corresponding figures for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 were 2.31%, 2.09% and 2.53% respectively.
While these percentages may appear paltry, in reality these add up to thousands of young men and women, desperate to gain entry into college and kickstart a process that would hopefully culminate into careers for them. In a country where the cut-off marks for entry into the premier institutions are shooting through the ceiling each year, the slightest difference due to the fraction of some percentage points can make or break lives. In some cases, scores in the board examination do have tragic consequences, leading to suicides.
Given its severe impact on the lives of young people, CBSE's apathy towards taking the students' complaints with due seriousness beggars belief. In Orissa, the row over allegedly faulty markings turned shockingly ugly, as parents threatened to scale their grievances up to the ministry of human resource development and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Orissa High Court also issued a notice to the CBSE joint secretary for making 'undesirable' remarks on its order regarding the fresh evaluation of answer scripts and speedy publication of the revised results.
The grievances against CBSE have escalated since last year, when it decided to discontinue the facility of having students' papers re-examined for a certain number of questions for a fee. The fee, many argue, is staggeringly high, but at least the availability of such a provision did make a difference to some.
Last year, the board called this service off, claiming that since there were no change of marks in 99.98% cases of re-examination, the process was only adding to already high burden of teachers. The argument could not have been more insensitive. For the 0.02%, whose marks did change after re-evaluation, their futures too were, in all likelihood, affected positively. To dismiss this percentile as negligible is but to write off the prospects of young lives, however few the number may seem mathematically.
CBSE, however, allows for re-checking to ensure every question has been marked, re-calculation of marks to ensure the totalling is correct and that additional sheets are all intact with the answer books. A number of students had their marks increased after these basic checks were run again—some going up by as much as 26 to 45 marks.
Any system that is run by humans is vulnerable to errors. In the case of board examinations held across the nation, with lakhs of candidates taking them, ensuring an error-proof system is harder still. But to refuse to engage with mistakes with due seriousness is execrable, and CBSE should know better than to take the lives of so many young people lightly.
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