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CBSE Board Exam 2021: Assessment confusion resolved, but the test isn't over for students

A lot of questions are still to be answered on whether cut-offs across colleges will rise over standardised marking and whether marksheet delays would lead to study abroad plans getting affected.

June 18, 2021 / 10:36 AM IST

Seventeen-year-old Vanita Gupta of Mumbai had months of sleepless nights over what would be the final method to bring out the board exam marksheets for her CBSE 12th standard.

Gupta's concerns about the assessment methodology are over. But she is now wondering if she would be able to make it to the application deadline in Australia.

On June 17, the Supreme Court (SC) accepted the assessment by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) where they decided to take into account the performance in Class 10, 11 and 12 to bring out the final marksheet.

This means that your board exam scores of Class 10 will play an equal role in the Class 12 marksheet.

CBSE also told the apex court that it will bring out the final marksheet by July 31.

But scores of students like Gupta are worried about missing their foreign education admission deadlines, especially in places like Australia and New Zealand.

"I had to submit all my marksheets by the first week of July to the institutes I applied to. While I had requested for a provisional marksheet that could be submitted, the school refused to give it since CBSE doesn't permit it," said Gupta.

Navin Pastakhia, a Class 12 student in Bardez, Goa has similar concerns. He has applied for hotel management courses at five institutes in New Zealand and is worried about whether his admission proposal would be rejected because of delay in marksheet submission.

"I wish the assessment decision was taken earlier. If my proposal is rejected, I will have to stay back in India and pursue the course here. Because wasting one academic year is not a viable option," he added.

In the assessment scheme, Attorney-General for India KK Venugopal appearing for CBSE said that for Class 12 students, the board will give 30 weightage to final scores from Class 10, 30 percent for Class 11 and 40 percent for Class 12. The final marksheet will be prepared on the basis of these scores.

The board exams were cancelled on June 2 in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases in India amidst the second wave. Every year, close to 1.2 million students appear for CBSE Class XII examinations across the country.

What are the concerns?

The assessment scheme would require schools to go back and refer to the old scores. This has brought some fears of unfair advantage in some schools that could creep into the system, especially due to the weightage system.

Dr. Sindhura, MD of education conglomerate The Narayana Group said that there will be uniformity and no student will be at a disadvantage.

However, she added that due to the weightage system there will be discrepancies since these exams were conducted internally by schools, and marking schemes vary from school to school putting some students at a disadvantage.

"Perhaps weightage given to Class 11 could have been reduced or Only the top 3 subjects from Class 11 final exams and Class 12 mid-terms or finals could have been considered," she said.

It is not just the students' performance, but the individual school's performance that will be taken into account. CBSE will be taken into account the past three-year performance of the school while CISCE will look at the past six years' performance of the institution.

This is to ensure that students of schools with average to below average scores don't get any unfair advantage through the internal assessment system in the final marksheet.

Dr Mona Lisa Bal, Chairperson, KiiT International School said that one aspect that could do with further deliberation is that we often see some students reach their true potential in the later part of their school years.

"The results of these late bloomers might have some implication if they have not had decent scores in two of the three classes to be taken into consideration. However, keeping the option of taking the class 12 exams open for such students is again a positive step," she added.

There is also confusion about what happens to students who have missed or or more internal assessments and practical tests due to COVID-19.

Abhishek Paul, an 18-year-old Class 12 student in Purulia, West Bengal told Moneycontrol that he had missed two internal assessments in 2020 due to being ill and medical emergencies.

"I had contracted COVID-19 in August 2020 and took more than a month to recover. By that time, I had missed the internal assessment. In February my mother contracted the virus and hence I had to take some time off. Now, the school is not clarifying how I will be marked," he added.

CBSE has said that schools can adopt an 'objective assessment' for students who have missed multiple internal tests. But, it is not clear what is the deadline for conducting these tests and what should be the syllabus.

Another area of confusion is for students who switched to the CBSE board after Class 10.

Madhura Tirkey, an 18-year-old student in Ranchi had pursued her Class 10 from the state board in Jharkhand and later switched to a CBSE school. She is worried about how the standardisation method will work.

"CBSE has said that schools will have to 'proportionally change' the marks before uploading it in case a student pursued Class 10 from a different board. Now how will they do it?" she questioned.

State education boards in places like Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu are termed to be lenient in their board exam marking system. Hence, it is not clear how will the marks be proportionally changed.

Standardised marking with weightage system would also mean that cut-offs at undergraduate programmes in India would automatically rise. It is expected that there could be a 1 percent rise in cutoffs making it tough for students to get admission to their desired course and institute.

Moneycontrol had reported earlier how tougher entry criteria with higher admission cutoffs are being planned across colleges due to non-exam based marksheet system being adopted.

What about study abroad?

For study abroad aspirants, the biggest challenge is missing the deadline. While students had requested CBSE to allow 'provisional marksheets' for study abroad, no such exception has been made.

Shishir Oberoi, a Class 12 CBSE student in Bengaluru is concerned that the universities he applied to in the United States may not accept this tabulation policy.

"I am looking to pursue a computer science course in the US. I am wondering if this final marksheet policy based on internal assessment and Class 10 results will be acceptable there," he added.

CBSE has said that students who are not satisfied with the assessment methodology will be allowed to appear for physical exams at a later date.

Oberoi told Moneycontrol that he is ready to appear for exams since he is fully prepared. But doing that would mean that his final marksheet would be further delayed and admissions in the US would close.

An unrelated but added concern is getting the vaccination on time so that the deadline to go to campus is met.

Kiera Choudhary, a 18-year-old medical aspirant from Ludhiana got an extension to submit her marksheet till the first week of July in Australia. However, she is not yet fully vaccinated which is a pre-requisite to be allowed in campus.

For Oberoi, Choudhary, Gupta, Pastakhia, Tirkey and several other students, the wait-and-watch period continues.

M Saraswathy
M Saraswathy is a business journalist with 10 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, she covers consumer durables, insurance, education and human resources beat for Moneycontrol.