Sleepless nights. This is probably what students eyeing for seats in Delhi University (DU) colleges must be going through these days. The reason: DU’s undergraduate admission is likely to see a new high thanks to the high scores in the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) exams. In the 2014 Class 12 CBSE results, the number of students who scored 95% and above is 8,971, up by nearly 3,000, and the number of 90% and above scorers has reached 59,591, up by 15,000, and crossing the 50,000-mark for the first time ever in the history of the board exam. Five hundred students scored 99% and above in economics, while 622 scored 100% in chemistry. In biology, 791 students scored 99% and above, while 480 students scored 98% and above in physics. Reports indicated that most colleges will set the cut-offs in their first lists above 95%. The first cut off list will be released tomorrow, followed by up to nine more lists, depending on seat availability, till July 21. While the total number of applications in DU is around 270,000, the number of seats available is 54,000.
One of the main reasons for such high marks is the CBSE’s liberal marking system, which the board introduced in 2006 after it came under pressure because of incidents of academic pressure-related suicides. Under the new scheme, the emphasis became more on objective questions, evaluators were told how to award marks and question papers were set with well-defined answers. But the irony of the situation is that what it set out to correct (too much pressure on students) has spawned another set of problems that is giving students sleepless nights. Piggybacking on high marks, the DU has started keeping abnormally high cut-offs and second, the CBSE’s marking system also has had a domino effect: other boards and state boards are opting for liberal marking so that their students also have a fair chance in DU admissions. Both school and college teachers often complain that such 95+ marks do not reflect a student’s calibre. And teachers have often told the media that they are being “forced” to award high marks even to undeserving students and this is one of the main reasons why students are not found employable even after graduating from top colleges.
In an interview HRD minister Smriti Irani has said that the government will work on a new education policy. The new policy must try to redress the current situation that has developed due to uneven marking across boards and debate what CNR Rao, former scientific adviser to the UPA, had suggested some years ago: An all-India common entrance test for higher education, including medical and technical courses.