More than 90 per cent of ISC examinees with economics scored 90 per cent or above in project work this year, but barely seven per cent were able to match the performance in theory.
The striking mismatch has raised questions about schools being too generous in evaluating project work, benefiting even those who did badly in the theory part of the examination that carries 80 marks.
“It was surprising to notice that most students performed extremely well in project work but scored very low marks in the theoretical paper. The mismatch indicates that the students were either not serious about their theoretical paper or undeserving students were given extra marks by their schools,” said Gerry Arathoon, secretary and chief executive of the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations.
The topic came up for discussion at a conference of heads of ICSE and ISC schools in Bangkok recently.
Arathoon warned the principals against encouraging the practice, saying they should instead ensure that the subject is taught properly. “We will be introducing project work in history next year. Schools must ensure that students don’t neglect their theoretical paper while hoping to score heavily in project work,” said Arathoon.
Across several ISC schools in Calcutta, nobody scored less than 17 out of 20 in project work. The project component in economics had been introduced this year.
“For projects, students are required to gather and analyse information, based on what they study. This is meant to help them develop a deeper understanding of the subject, which we had hoped would help them score higher in the theory paper,” a council official said.
Until last year, all 100 marks in the economics paper were for theory.
After the ISC results were declared on May 17, several schools in Calcutta and other parts of the country complained to the council about their students’ low scores in economics.
A review of the paper to find out if the questions were difficult or “out of the syllabus” didn’t reveal any anomaly. The process of evaluation wasn’t found to be faulty either.
“We found nothing wrong with the manner in which the exam was conducted. The paper was not difficult and the evaluation was flawless,” Arathoon said.
According to the council, the majority of the students didn’t do well in the exam because they were under-prepared.
“Based on the review, we have come to the conclusion that students performed poorly because they were relaxed and did not study the subject properly. Some students were confident that they would score maximum marks in project work and this would help them score high in the subject without studying for the theory paper,” Arathoon said.
A source in the council said nobody had complained about the economics paper being “difficult” on the day of the exam.
But a Calcutta examinee who failed to clear the exam despite scoring 19 out of 20 in project work blamed a “shift in the question pattern” for his low score.
“The council used to set flat questions in economics until last year. There was a sudden change in the paper format this time. Many of the questions were concept-based. I scored less because I was not prepared to tackle such questions,” the student said.
An economics teacher in a reputable ISC school said “some questions” were concept-based but not difficult for someone who had studied properly.