This academic year, more Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) students will be able to get cent per cent scores thanks to additional sports marks.
The Maharashtra state school and sports education department has relaxed the eligibility criteria for awarding the marks, making it easier to qualify for 25 marks — the highest allotted in the quota.
Under the new rules, 25 marks will be given to those participating in international tournaments, along with students ranking in the top three in national competitions. And participation in nationals or winning state-level tourneys will earn 20 marks, states a government resolution issued on Tuesday.
Last year, it was mandatory for students to win national competitions and take part in international ones to qualify for the highest marks. Similarly, students winning nationals alone got 20 marks.
But the department on Tuesday loosened the rules after receiving feedback that fewer students were qualifying because of the stringent criteria.
Only 456 examinees from Mumbai and 4, 233 from across Maharashtra benefitted from the sports marks in the SSC, HSC exams last year, owing to the tough norms. More than 3,00,000 students from Mumbai and more than 15,00,000 in Maharashtra appeared for the exam last year.
“Very few students were getting the sports marks because of earlier rules,” said Suvarna Kharat, deputy secretary of the department.
Adding that winning the nationals is an achievement on a par with reaching the international stage, Kharat said, “Not many students go to the nationals, it is an achievement in itself and that’s why we decided to change the rules.”
The sports marks scheme was discontinued in 2013, as students were found to be faking certificates to get the marks. The qualifying criteria were also a lot easier, and as a result hundreds of students in the state scored more than 100% marks in the SSC exams. The scheme was reintroduced in 2016, but with tougher rules so that it would be limited to students truly excelling in sports.
However, the change in rules will once again make it easier to earn sports marks. And this coupled with the new rules, which will allot additional marks for folk art and drawing, will lead to inflation of marks for thousands of students, said school principals.
“I am in favour of rewarding students for playing sports, but making it easy to qualify for them is unfair on other regular students,” said Father Francis Swamy, joint-secretary, Archdiocesan Board of Education, which runs 150-odd schools in Mumbai.
ICSE and CBSE schools, too, are worried that this will give state board students an unfair edge over the rest. “Hundreds of students participate in elementary drawing competitions and hundreds take part in state, national and international sports events,” said Rohan Bhat, chairperson, Children’s Academy Group of Schools, Kandivli and Malad.