Flaws in High School Leaving Certificate Examination system and its remedies

Dr K Nabachandra Singh *

Students appearing for Class X Exam (High School Leaving Certificate) :: 01 March 2016
Students appearing for Class X Exam in March 2016 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam

Much has been talked about the flaws and errors in the result of High School Leaving Certificate examination, 2018 conducted by the Board of Secondary Education. Manipur.

The issue can be studied under the following 4 major heads viz.
1. Integrity of persons engaged in the entire examination process.
2. The system followed
3. Codification and marking scheme
4. An alternative to ranking system

1. Integrity : The integrity of persons involved right from Grade III or IV of the Board office upto the top level is of utmost importance. About 20-30 years ago, persons who were entrusted with delivering the confidential letters for question setting, codification, paper examination (including Head examiner and Asst. Head examiner), scrutiny etc. were very selective and only men of high integrity were put into this service.

Now unlike in the past, the overenthusiastic parents and guardians in large numbers try to track down to ascertain persons who are directly involved in codification, examination, scrutiny of the papers of their wards. Some are said to have approached the examiners with code numbers of answer paper of their wards. This therefore involves the question of integrity of Board personals who are engaged exclusively for the confidential work. The sole responsibility for maintenance of confidentiality in this regard should rest with the Board employees.

2. System: Its true that a 2-hour or 3 hour examination cannot decide the fate or merit of a student. Hence National Council of Education and Research introduced the system of evaluation which encompasses the internal assessment of the students year-long performance plus the end examination. At present, under the Board of Secondary Education, Manipur and also the CBSE, 20 marks are allotted for Internal Assessment for each of the subjects. The same system was followed for Higher Secondary stage by the Council of Higher Secondary Education, Manipur and also in the Manipur University for degree courses. The system was however abolished in the Higher Secondary Schools and colleges of Manipur after a few years.

In theory, it is quite sound and highly reasonable to make assessment for the overall growth of a student during the past one year in terms of one's physical growth, morality, discipline, behaviour towards teachers and friends, social responsibility, academic activities etc. But in actual practice, almost every school takes it as a bonus to every student without ever trying to assess the desired parameters of individual students and almost 100% of the students get 100% marks i.e. 20 marks out of 20.

Way back in 1980*s there was Internal Assessment of 20 marks for Practical subjects under Manipur University. While I was a teacher in the Deptt. of Chemistry. D.M. College of Science. I took various parameters into consideration like regularity, punctuality, correctness of experimental result etc. There were only some bright, sincere and hard working students securing 20 out of 20 in my group; while others got 16-17 on the average. Quite sarcastically, almost every student from other colleges of Manipur got 20 marks out of 20.

Realising this fallacy, I personally moved Prof. I.S. Khaidem, the then Vice-Chancellor of Manipur University to do away with this system of Internal assessment. Ultimately it had to go. The same was the case in the Council of Higher Secondary Education, Manipur when there was grading system. With the banishment of Grading system from Manipur in Hr. Secondary stage, the Internal Assessment system has gone. However, it is still prevalent in Manipur Board, CBSE and some other Boards of the country.

Theoretically, the Internal Assessment is quite perfect and appropriate but practically it is quite imperfect and misappropriate. The continuance of the system needs to be objectively examined in the light of present day practical applicabily in the schools of Manipur. In this / connection, the system followed in Ram Krishna Mission, Purulia of West Bengal may be adopted. The Internal Assessment under West Bengal Board carries a weightage of 10% instead of 20% which is still prevalent under Manipur Board, CBSE etc.

3. Codification and Marking scheme: The tedious job of codification by writing code numbers of all answer scripts is a very important and time consuming step in the evaluation process. It may be done away with the introduction of bar code system as was introduced in the Council of Higher Secondary examination with effect from 2018. The chance of leakage of information with respect to code nos. of answer scripts shall be definitely minimized by doing so.

After codification of answer scripts, the papers are distributed to the examiners of different subjects through the Head examiner/Asst. Head examiner for examination and awarding of mark. To maintain uniformity in awarding marks, head examiners prepare out-line answer key with value points for the different questions of each subject. These are only hints and they are discussed briefly before the start of paper examination.

There are paper examiners who follow the given outline answers faithfully without having regard to some alternative/better answers. Such candidates arc often penalized by some examiners who fail to apply their mind and they are awarded less or no marks. There are examiners who have not taught the subject thoroughly.

The limited knowledge of such examiners banking on outline answer key only often put some bright students into trouble by awarding less or no mark. As a result, there are cases wherein, upon re-checking/re-examination non-rankers are awarded handsome marks leading to inclusion in merit list too.

4. An alternative to ranking system: We cannot lose sight of the drawbacks associated with declaration of ranks in the prevailing situation of Manipur. Everybody sees that, just on declaration of Board Exam result, several private schools in the state lobby for a deal with the family members of the position holders to offer handsome amount to the tune of several lakhs of rupees in exchange for his/her admission in their respective schools.

Once the deal is struck, next day local papers are Hooded with photos of such booked rank holders to let others know that such and such rank holders have been already admitted in their schools. The rank holders are now seen, in the eyes of the public, as purchasable commodity. This is quite unfortunate and is diametrically opposite to the ethos of healthy educational practice.

With the days gone by, the mindset of the prospective parents and persons involved in confidential works of examination is drastically changed. There are cases where the parent or their relatives approach the examiner/head examiners with code number of a candidate for favour of awarding good marks. Then, where lies the confidentiality? People with greater tentacle shall outreach to a greater extent to gain more benefit.

Parents who cherish such idea of exploring the unexplored for the benefit of his ward should understand that the sense of fair competition will prevail in the long run. High school leaving certificate examination is not the end of the road in the long march to fulfil a child's dream.

To conclude, the following remedial measures are suggested -
(I) men with unquestionable integrity be engaged for examination confidential works
(II) Pre-evaluation workshop involving the Head, Asst. Head examiner and examiners be conducted to discuss threadbare the pros and cons of all the questions for each subject.
(III) To ensure scrutiny of answer scripts faithfully including the totalling of marks.
(IV) To replace the present system of awarding 20% for internal assessment by 10% only (as is done in West Bengal Board)
(V) To replace the ranking system by the grading system by incorporating marks and the corresponding grade for each subject (as is done in West Bengal Board, CBSE and many other Boards)

* Dr K Nabachandra Singhwrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on 24 August, 2018 .

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