India’s top school syllabus-setting body is set to come up with a nationwide standard assessment protocol for Classes X and XII students to address the wide variations in performance and pass rates across multiple boards.
The National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the organisation that prepares syllabus and textbooks, will set up an outfit named Performance Assessment, Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development (Parakh) that will advise on question patterns in exams and assessment of papers and give suggestions on ways to standardise the entire process across boards.
According to the National Education Policy, Parakh will advise school boards, both central and state, regarding new assessment patterns and latest research, ensuring equivalence of academic standards among learners across boards.
Parakh will be primarily an advisory outfit whose suggestions won’t be binding on boards. However, as the central boards are expected to implement it and students will go for national-level entrance exams for college, state boards could feel it necessary to comply.
There are 60 school boards in the country, including nine open-school boards for correspondence-mode education. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) and the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) are central boards while most states have their own school boards.
The NCERT has analysed the data relating to performance of students in different boards.
According to the analysis, each board has its own standard, syllabus, time lines for exams and results and question paper-setting pattern. There is no level playing field for students in terms of standard, which also hampers students looking to change board.
The pass rates of students vary hugely among boards. (See chart) At the secondary level (Class X), the pass rate was 57 per cent in Meghalaya and 61 per cent in Madhya Pradesh in 2022, whereas Kerala and Telangana registered 99.85 per cent and 97.6 per cent pass rates.
The CBSE and the schools boards of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar and Bengal cover about 50 per cent of the total students while the remaining 50 per cent study in 55 boards.
Ashok Ganguly, former chairman of the CBSE, said the wide variations in pass percentage in Classes X and XII board exams showed that there was no uniformity in assessment patterns.
“There are boards that believe in inflating marks because they have the false notion that it will enhance their status, which is not true,” Ganguly said.
The practice of lenient marking is simply to cover up for the lapses in the teaching-learning process, he said. Teachers in charge of evaluating papers are given up to 150 answer scripts a day, which affects the quality of assessment, Ganguly said.
Ganguly stressed the importance of uniformity in the evaluation process across boards. “So we can say that Parakh will be, to a great extent, a consortium of different school boards in India where necessary guidelines will be prepared and finalised to ensure uniformity in approach in evaluation across India,” Ganguly said.
According to the NCERT’s analysis, the pass rate among Class X students of government schools was 78.2 percent in 2022. The corresponding figures were 81.9 per cent and 90.7 per cent for government-aided and private schools. The cumulative pass rate was 84 per cent. In Class XII, the pass rate among students of government schools was 84.6 per cent while it was 86.6 per cent and 86.4 per cent among government-aided and private schools. The cumulative pass rate was 85.9 per cent.
The analysis suggested that there is a large deviation in the performance of students of the secondary and higher-secondary levels in the same state because there are separate boards for Classes X and XII. The NCERT suggested that there should be a single board for Classes X and XII in one state. The analysis also recommended converging the syllabus of the state boards with that of the central boards so that students have a level playing field in common exams.