- kewal sethi
grading the examination
grading an examination
examinations have been criticised for a long time. it is discouraging students from educating themselves. the scores in the examination is their only concern. but what else can they do? when the entire life depends upon how one does in the examinations, can there be any option other than taking it seriously? it is therefore no surprise that there are numerous institutes and private tutors who assure the students of all help in passing the examinations. the teachers do not teach in the schools. they reserve their energy for the tuitions that they have in the off school hours. these tuition institutions, some would call them teaching shops, and the teachers going in for tutions are condemned by educationists of all hues. nevertheless they flourish. alongside that the help books make their own contribution in assuring the students of success and providing a shortcut to passing in the examination. the textbooks, written by experts, are so monotonous that they can not be depended upon. their language and the exercises in them do not prepare the students for the examinations. why it is so will remain a mystery.
the reform of the examinations has been a constant issue in all the reports of all the commissions starting with the indian university commission in 1902, it said, 'It is beyond doubt that the greatest evil from which the system of indian university education suffers is that teaching is subordinated to examination and not examination to teaching'. the calcutta university commission (1917-19) also identified several shortcomings in the examination system and specifically indicated its unhappiness about alternative questions, the mechanical system of marking, grace marks, frequency of examinations, and so on. the hartog committee report (1929) criticized the academic bias of examinations at the school level which continued to be geared to the needs of university entrance and provided no opportunities for the majority of students to take up industrial, commercial, or technical courses as a preparation for life.
after India became an independent nation, the university education commission (1948) was equally vocal in its criticism of examinations, stating that, if members were asked to make just one recommendation for reforming education, they would identify the area of examinations as the one where greatest priority and urgency for introducing reforms should be applied. the mudaliar commission (1952-53) made a number of specific recommendations in regard to examination reform. the government organized a seminar on examination reform at Bhopal in february 1956. which recommended the creation of an expert body—to be called the central examination unit - to work in this specialized area. the kothari commission (1966) suggested a new approach to evaluation which would attempt: (a) to improve the written examination so that it became a valid and reliable measure of educational achievement; and (b) to devise techniques for measuring those important aspects of the student's growth that cannot be measured by written examination.
since then numerous committees, seminars and conferences have discussed the various aspects of examination system. a number of innovations have been introduced like replacing essay type questions by objective type questions. a criticism of the examination system was the question of subjectivity within written examinations which affects evaluation of answer books which operates at three levels: (a) the subjectivity of the person who is setting a question paper; (b) the subjectivity of the examinee in writing answers; and (c) the subjectivity of the person who evaluates the answer books.
to counter the criticism of the examinations, a number of steps have been taken. the CBSE started giving the paper setters suitable instructions. it advised that 30 % of questions should be easy so that everyone can answer it; 40 % of questions should be where average student can answer them and remaining typical questions. but it would be seen that of late the trend in the CBSE examination is that marks like 90 % and above are very common even in language subjects. another typical format suggested was on the type of questions which said that objective type questions, short answer type questions and essay type questions should be in the ratio 8 : 12 : 5
nevertheless the criticism of the system continued. the way out was considered to be abolition of the examinations. the examinations were altogether abolished at the lower level and promotion to next class was given on completing the year. there were board examination at class 5 and 8 level but they were also later done away with. latest is to make the class 10 examination also optional.
alongside the abolition, it was sought to take out the sting of the examinations where the numeric supremacy prevailed, by introducing grading. the rhetoric was that an examination should become an instrument for promoting growth rather than simply measuring it. Its results should be used for diagnostic and prognostic purposes rather than merely for classification, grading and certification. the declaration of examination results in terms of pass/fail and divisions has lost its significance and ought to be discontinued. Instead, 'clearance certificate' awarded after having completed a course or a part of it may be given. results may be declared in terms of grades (5 to 7 point scale) rather than marks.
traditionally the examination system in india has used a 101-point scale (0 to 100) for evaluating students' levels of achievement in different subjects. precise cut-off points for divisions, as also for failure and distinctions, were arbitrarily decided in advance; after which they continued unmodified year after year for that particular examination. a serious shortcoming of the traditional procedure was that the smallest variability of examiners' judgment, in respect of one mark this way or that, changed the division and the fate of the students affected - for these judgments were irreversible. furthermore, high marks could be scored in some subjects while not in others. This made choice of subject an important criterion governing the range of marks within which a student could aspire to achieve.
in 1975, NCERT brought out the recommendations which went as follows:
1. In a final certificate, the levels of achievement of students in different subjects may be given in terms of 'grades' instead of 'marks '.
2. grades for different subjects may be indicated separately.
3. no over-all grades or divisions should be given.
how are grades to be determined? for this the pattern of IIT can be considered. the question papers are marked in the traditional way. however marks are converted into GPA on the following basis (for comparison grades are also mentioned.
percentage equivalent GPA equivalent grade 60 to 100 4.0 (or A+ for >90 %) 50 to 60 3.5 B + 40 to 50 3.0 B < 40 2.0 C
the CBSE has now introduced a nine point grading system which works as follows –
percentage equivalent GPA equivalent grade
91-100 A1 10.0 81 -90 A2 9.0 71 -80 B1 8.0 61-70 B2 7.0 51 -60 C1 6.0 41 -50 C2 5.0 33-40 D 4.0 21-32 E1
it also said that the qualifying marks in each subject of external examination shall be 33% . However at senior school certificate examination, in a subject involving practical work, a candidate must obtain 33% marks in the theory and 33% marks in the practical separately in addition to 33% marks in aggregate, in order to qualify in that subject.
though the grading system has been introduced, it is to be noted that evaluation will be on the basis of the award of marks. it is mere conversion by a laid down arbitrary boundaries. the criticism which we pointed out about arbitrariness continues. if there is no difference between 81 % and 90 %, why should it be there between 80 % and 81 %? but it will be argued that some criteria has to be followed and some point has to be fixed to lend meaning toi the exercise.
it will be interesting to know the reaction of the students to this new scheme (taken from a website) some of the typical comments are
actually i want to advice you that with this grades boards should give percentage also as we can compare ourselves. since a child getting 99.5% and 95% will be in the same grade and hence will not able to know who performed better.
the structure of our classes should have been revamped first before the introduction of the new system. The system will take time to stabilize and the students who are forced to go through it during the transition phase may end up as losers.
we slog throughout the year and crack our brains over getting good marks in the board, but it does give one a certain amount of satisfaction to see the results at the end of the year. what, they want to take this satisfaction away too? at the same time, there is the fact that loads of students get above 90% in their board exams.
points to be considered
a) teacher can take advantage and ask loads and loads of homework in 1 day; .don't get it and their words “now see. I'll cut your marks and give you zero”
(b) it is a waste of resources.
(c) teachers take their pets to their sides give them good grades.
(d) don't get a copy or book and bang your gone. (forgive the language which is not mine)
the basic thing remains that evaluation in terms of numbers continues. it is not abolished, only converted. it does not appear on the mark sheet. the system remains the same. there is talk of internal assessment, continous assessment etc. but the final examination and the result thereof retains its supremacy.
it is common knowledge that grading does not work. why so? the answer lies in the close competition which ensues for admission to the higher institutions. if there are 10,000 applicants for admission to b.com (hons) for 60 seats in sri ram college of commerce, they have no option except to compare the merit of the students. they have to have a cut off percentage. A+ grade holders would, themselves, be many times the number of seats. percentage will have a better probability of comparing the merit. incidentally this year the cutoff percentage was 100 %. the alternative is to have another entrance examination where marks will be awarded. it is going to be same traditional evaluation through the back door.
what then is the option? the following suggestions are offerred. (incidentally in 1994, in the conference of chairmen of boards of secondary education, i had suggested them. the conference was not held for some reason or other and the paper never saw the light of the day. it was promptly lost by my board also.)
1. instead of four point grading or ten point grading, there should be 100 point grading.
2. the mark sheet will give the marks (or grade) awarded for each subject. there will be no pass or fail, just the number against each subject.
3. certificate will be awarded to each examinee.
4. any student can make any number of attempts to improve his grade in any number of subjects. the only condition will be that it should be done before the next public examination. for class 10, it should be class 12; for class 12, it should be BA/ BSc etc.
5. if there is improvement in the next examination, a revised mark sheet will be issued mentioning improved marks or grades (obviously in the subjects in which examination is taken. others will have previous marks or grades). the whole certificate will be replaced and there will be no supplementary certificate.
6. it is for the employer or the next educational institution to evaluate relative suitability for employment or admission. for example if good grade in PCM – physics, chemistry, mathematics – suffice, the grades in other subjects like languages etc. can be ignored.
7. the system of competition examinations, where necessary will continue. it is for the institution concerned to decide if weightage is to be given to the grades in the qualifying examination and, if so, how comparison between different examining bodies is to be done.