‘Unequal’ admission race worries experts

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New Delhi, June 29: As the college admission season gets under way, with much-in-demand universities setting stiff cut-off marks for eligibility, academics warn that the contest is not even for students across the school boards.
Different boards award marks with varying generosity, but the reputable universities that attract applicants from all over India tend to set the same cut-offs for everyone.
As in previous years, the top 20 percentile score – the score of a student who has outdone 80% of her peers from her board – has crossed 85% in the school boards of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. Ditto the Central Board of Secondary Education.
The corresponding scores for the Boards in Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur and Uttarakhand are less than 65%. It’s traditionally 65 to 70% in Bengal, whose percentile scores aren’t out yet, and in Odisha.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that students in Andhra are far better than those in Bihar, warn academics such as IIT Kanpur Professor Dheeraj Sanghi and Delhi University executive council member Rajesh Jha.
“It’s just that some Boards ask too many objective-type questions and give full marks while some others ask a traditional mix of subjective and objective questions and are rigid in awarding marks,” said Sanghi.
Jha said that Bihar’s students do quite well in national-level exams, indicating they do not lack competence. “The Government needs to evolve a policy to neutralise inflated marks so that talented students from certain Boards do not lose out,” he said.
Sanghi said that one solution was to stop admitting students on the basis of their absolute board scores, “else representation from the Eastern and Northeastern states would be minimal in outside universities”.
The IITs and the NITs have solved the problem by setting their eligibility cut-off for B. Tech courses not by absolute marks alone but also by percentile, thus avoiding an uneven inter-board competition. On Thursday, these institutes set the cut-off at 20 percentile or 75%, whichever was lower.
Delhi University, though, is admitting students on the basis of absolute marks, having put on hold a proposal to hold entrance tests from this year, Jha said.
A former CBSE official said the Board asks largely objective-type questions and awards a few marks if a student merely attempts a subjective question. A CBSE Humanities student scored 499 out of 500 this year, topping the Class XII exams.
“A national-level entrance test on the lines of (America’s) Scholastic Aptitude Test is the only answer to this kind of anomaly,” he said.
An IIT Bombay Professor who wouldn’t be quoted said some foreign universities stored data about the scoring patterns of the various school examinations and moderated the marks during college admissions.
“Admitting students solely on the basis of absolute marks means injustice to candidates from certain Boards,” he said.
(Courtesy: TT)