The Delhi High Court restraining CBSE from discontinuing its moderation policy indicated how systemic the problem is—with the curricula different across different education boards, there is no congruence in evaluation of students as well. This incongruence creates a situation where boards must jack up marks to plug gaps between their students’ results and the results of students of other boards, so that the former are not at a disadvantage during college admissions based on marks. The Union HRD ministry forming a working group of eight boards to come up with, as per The Times of India, a “scientific moderation policy” reiterates this point. Thirty-two boards had earlier decided to end moderation by spiking marks, but only a few stuck to this resolution. Against such a backdrop, ideas such as a common core curriculum across boards, sharing of question papers between boards to achieve similar difficulty levels, disclosing grace marks policies online, etc, seem sound. However, it is unlikely that boards that have been habitually spiking marks can be weaned away, especially if they are to compensate for poor teaching standards or other factors that have a bearing on median performance of students.
Moreover, with education being in the concurrent list, a standardisation of tests at the secondary/higher secondary levels may not sail politically. In such a scenario, entrance tests—whether a university conducts its own or a group of universities/institutions use a common test—is a better approach. A threshold higher secondary level score for taking the test—say, passing marks—would mean that there is very little need for boards to spike marks. Scores in course-specific tests can then be matched with college rankings for admissions.
There are templates for such an admission system, the medical and engineering entrance tests, for instance. Different combinations of subjects and the question of degrees in regional language do complicate the matter. But, with university curriculum more or less the same, designing tests on the basis of the majors shouldn’t be that difficult. As for regional languages, with the competition pool reduced to one or two boards, including the state board, cut-off marks would suffice.