The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has cheated lakhs of students who appeared for the Class 12 board exams in 2018 by unfairly “moderating” their marks, a practice that Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar had assured would be abolished.
Thirteen months ago, on 24 April 2017, the CBSE and 31 other school boards from across the country had agreed to do away with the practice of unfairly bumping up or spiking students’ marks to show higher-scoring results.
However, hearing a petition that argued that some states had decided to implement the policy change only from 2018, the Delhi High Court had ordered the CBSE in May 2017 to go ahead with “moderation” of marks of students in 2017.
Therefore, as per CBSE’s own statements and the Central government’s assurances, 2018 would be the first year with the new policy of “no moderation”.
But a comprehensive data analysis of the 2018 Class 12 results, that were announced on Saturday, has revealed that shockingly enough, the CBSE has continued to rampantly “moderate” marks, as unfairly as ever.
The CBSE’s move will also impact the college admission processes this year.
In 2017, Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar had slammed the board’s unfair marking system, referring to the CBSE’s policy of spiking up marks as “an illogical menace” that needed to be stopped. Javadekar had said,
"For the last several years, boards have been inflating marks. This spiking of marks is unacceptable – it is an illogical menace." - Prakash Javadekar, Union HRD Minister
- So did the Central government know about the CBSE’s decision to unfairly “moderate” this year’s marks as well?
- Why did the CBSE continue what Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar called “an illogical menace”?
- And how will the government react to the CBSE defying its own assurances of “stopping moderation entirely”?
Proof of CBSE’s Unfairness: The Spike at 95/100
An incredible number of people scoring the particular mark 95 in individual subjects had exposed the CBSE’s dirty secret of “marks moderation”.
A data-driven investigation by this reporter, aired on 6 June 2016, had brought this to light. Conclusive data analysis of CBSE results over the past decade showed that the board was inflating students’ marks unequally – that is, marks of different students were being raised by different amounts.
Despite intervention from the Union HRD Ministry and the CBSE’s own claims of fixing their faulty marking procedures, the Board has continued the unfair practice. Here’s why the mystery figure 95 exposes the CBSE’s unscrupulous marking procedure.
Take a look at the following graph of the Class 12 Mathematics results of CBSE 2018. The graphs shows the results of over 5 lakh students who appeared for the Mathematics exam this year.
Mathematics 2018: Notice the 95!
On the graph, if you hover over the 60 mark, for instance, the number that pops up on your screen is the number of times students scored 60 in the CBSE Class 12 Maths exam this year.
Spot the sudden surge at the 95 mark? A closer look at the graph will show you that over 39,000 students scored exactly 95 out of 100 in their Maths exam. The number 95 is awarded to more students than ANY other number from 0 to 100.
Strike you as odd? Why is 95 awarded many more times than all other marks?
Dheeraj Sanghi, professor at IIT-Kanpur, explains:
"The moderation of marks is done in a way that many students score 95. In reality they have scored 94, 93, 92, 91, etc. But all of them have been bunched with 95. This is unfair because different students have been given different increases in marks." - Dheeraj Sanghi
But why the obsession with 95? In a discussion following the exposé on CNN-News18 in June 2016, former exam controller for the CBSE, Pavnesh Kumar, unwittingly admitted the board’s flawed system while attempting to defend it.
“Those in the know can tell you that this is because the limit for a moderated score has been fixed by the board as 95. Those who have 80, if you give them 15 moderation marks, they will get 95. Anybody with 85, give them 10 moderation marks, they go to 95. But a moderated score cannot go beyond 95.”
Kumar’s defence stressed on the need to stop moderation at some mark. Because if an 80 was increased by 15 to 95, a 90 couldn’t be increased similarly to 105. Strangely, Kumar refused to admit that increasing different students’ marks by different amounts was an unequal and unfair practice.
He argued, “It is unfair to say that those scoring 95 without moderation are losing out, because their scores are not being reduced. Only the marks of those below 95 are being raised."
But is it fair to put students scoring 95 on par with students scoring less? Especially when college admissions hinge on as little a difference as half a percent.
In the Accountancy paper too, out of over 3 lakh results analysed, the number 95 is awarded to more students than any other number from 60 to 100.
Business Studies 2018
Results of 3,07,327 students who appeared for the Business Studies paper were also analysed by a data analyst who writes at The Learning Point.
The 95 spike is extremely dominant, with more students scoring 95 than any other mark from 0 to 100. More than 20,000 students scored the exact number 95. The next most awarded number is 55, scored by less than 10,000 students.
Why This Is Extremely Unfair to Students
Consider students A and B. Let us assume they have exams in two subjects which will determine their college admissions.
In subject 1, student A scores 95 and B gets 85. But B’s 85 is moderated to 95 while A’s mark stays at 95.
In subject 2, A scores 95 and B scores 96.
A now has 95 and 95. B now has 95 and 96. Thanks to “moderation”, A loses a college seat to B. Without moderation A was 9 marks ahead of B.
That, multiplied over several subjects and lakhs of students, is the extent of the unfairness of CBSE’s moderation policies.
A History of Unfairness
The 95 spike was observed across 10 of the 12 most-studied subjects of the CBSE, every year from 2008 to 2016.
After the Delhi High Court order last year, the 95 spike was visible even in the 2017 results.
Interestingly, the CBSE did not seem to apply the same policies of moderation to ‘optional subjects’ such as Hindi Core, Physical Education and Home Science.
What Will It Take for CBSE to Stop This Unfair Practice?
In 2017, the Union HRD Minister went on record saying that the process of “moderating” marks was “illogical and unacceptable”.
In April 2017, HRD Secretary Anil Swarup said that a consensus had been arrived at by “State and Central Education Boards” to do away with “spiking of marks through moderation”.
In the meeting held with State and Central Education Boards, consensus arrived at doing away with "spiking" of marks through "moderation".— Anil Swarup (@swarup58) April 24, 2017
As The Quint had reported even then, the CBSE’s own official by-laws do not even mention any scope for such arbitrary spiking as part of its moderation policy.
But the truth remains that the lakhs of students who appeared for CBSE 2018 have been denied a fair marking system. The CBSE will have to answer for cheating these students and unfairly affecting their college admissions.
The Quint has sought a detailed response from the CBSE and the Union HRD Ministry. This article will be updated if and when they reply.
. Read more on Education by The Quint.Exclusive: How CBSE, ISC Cheated You by Moderating Marks UnfairlyExclusive: CBSE Cheats 2018 Class 12 Students by Marking Unfairly . Read more on Education by The Quint.