The Maharashtra state education department’s decision to award 10 to 25 extra marks in the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination to students excelling in drawing, classical and folk arts has evoked mixed reactions from educationalists in Mumbai.
While educators lauded the move to extend the additional marks scheme, which was restricted only for students who play sports, to those proficient in fine art, many argued that it will lead to gross inflation of marks in the SSC exams.
School principals across boards, including ICSE, CBSE and international boards, acknowledged it as a ‘progressive move’. They said it will set a good precedent of equality between sportspersons and artists.
“Students pursuing creative arts from a school age deserve to be appreciated, much like those playing sports. They too invest their time and energy to hone their craft,” said Sunita George, principal, Bombay Scottish School, Powai.
Educators said this shows that state board recognises multiple intelligences. “A child might be weak in academics but is talented in the arts. It will be unfair to judge him only on academics then,” said Father Francis Swamy, principal of St Mary’s School (ICSE), Mazgaon and joint-secretary of the Archdiocesan Board of Education, which runs 150-odd schools in Mumbai.
But they agreed that it will give SSC students an unfair edge over their counterparts unless ICSE, CBSE and international boards adopt similar practices. “Due to this initiative, more students will receive additional marks than in the past. Admissions will be in the favour of SSC students,” said Rohan Bhat, chairman, Children’s Academy Group of Schools, Kandivli and Malad. “It will be a form of inflation of marks.”
Additionally, since there are no government approved institutions for teaching folk arts, experts warn that the board will need to keep a tight vigil over the certificates submitted by the students to claim the marks.
A similar situation arose when the board introduced sports marks in 2011. Private agents helped students’ doctor documents to get the marks. Students submitted certificates of fake tournaments or from bogus institutions. The scam resulted in shutting down of the scheme for three years. It was revived last year but after putting in stringent eligibility and verification criteria.
But education officials allayed fears that the new scheme might lead to excessive increase in the marks of an individual candidate or malpractices.
“The extra marks awarded to each student will not exceed beyond 25 in any circumstance, even if the child is gifted in sports and arts,” said Suvarna Kharat, deputy secretary of the department.
Kharat added that verifications and checks have been put in place to prevent fraudulent means to claim the marks. “Only students acquiring classical arts skills from government approved schools will receive extra marks,” said Kharat. “In case of folk arts, we are asking institutions to register with us and only then will their certificates be accepted.”