New CBSE mark system sparks debate on exams

Educators and parents of CBSE school students in the UAE are calling for a standardisation of examination papers across all the Indian state education boards, in light of the latest decision to scrap the 'marks moderation' policy.

On Monday, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) met India's State Education Boards and School Education Secretary, Anil Swarup. It was decided that boards across the country would scrap the 'Marks Moderation' policy to decide exam results.

Under the present moderation policy, all examinees are awarded up to 15 per cent extra marks if the questions are deemed to be difficult. But as of this year, that will no longer be the case. However, grace marks will still continue for some students if just a few marks are needed to pass an exam.

But the decision will put CBSE students at a disadvantage, unless a standardised examination paper is introduced, according to a top Indian education official based in the UAE.

"The CBSE brought the moderation rule in because our syllabus standard is very high compared to that of India's other state boards. Now, with the decision to scrap the rule, students from other state board schools will have an edge over CBSE students," he said.

Though his school had "not yet received a circular" outlining the classification of the new decision, he stated it is bound to have a huge impact on the students' future. "This will only work if there is uniformity in the examination system. That way, all students will have the same chance at gaining entry to better universities."

'Standardise the exams'

But as it stands, those taking board exams outside the CBSE syllabus will have the advantage over their counterparts.

For mother-of-three Sazeeda Parvez, the decision has not been well received. With a son in Grade 10, she said this is just another unnecessary factor adding to her son's workload.

"Just this year, my son changed to the CBSE system and it is already proving a little difficult for him. Before, his exams were split across several papers covering different portions of the syllabus, but now they have been clubbed together."

She said this is "adjustment enough for him", so having to face the "injustice of having the moderation policy scrapped" is unwarranted. But it could have financial implications too.

"My son has already started to ask for private tuitions because he finds the syllabus difficult. He is a very capable student but this is now extra pressure for him. I'm most worried for my middle child though. He's a little slower than his brother, so this new rule could really affect his future results," said Sazeeda.

With a son studying at a CBSE curriculum school in Dubai, Abdul Sharef said this rule will only be "accepted by parents" if exams are standardised across the board. "I don't mind the scrapping of the policy, but it should be made fair by standardising exams."

The practice of moderation in exams was initially adopted to bring uniformity in the evaluation process. A student's score was tweaked to align with the marking standards of different examiners to maintain parity of pass percentage. However, this resulted in inflated scores being witnessed in board exam results. What this new move aims to do is bring that spike down.

But one principal of an Al Quoz based school said if it's not a "one-size-fits-all approach", then some students will be left out in the cold when it comes to university planning.