While the jury is still out on whether the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) abandoned the practice of grade inflation this year, one number could tell a part of that story. More than half of all Class XII students in the country who scored (exactly) 95 per cent in English (Core) this year are from private schools in the Delhi region, an analysis of the results by an engineer based in New York has found.
Debarghya Das (24), mined the records of 9,96,302 English (Core) test takers (about 95 per cent of the total number of test takers), 91,736 (roughly 9 per cent) of whom belonged to 622 private schools in the Delhi region. He found that as many as 14,503 of these 91,736 test takers — or nearly 16 per cent — had scored exactly 95 per cent.
In comparison, among CBSE Class XII test takers in the rest of the country, only 1.4 per cent had got 95 per cent — which works out to 12,663 students, or a little less than half the number of 95 per centers in India.
This vast gap between the percentage of 95 per centers in Delhi’s private schools (16%) and those in schools in the rest of India (1.4%), is odd. And it must not be interpreted to mean that test takers from Delhi are over 11 times more likely to obtain 95 per cent in English (Core) than test takers elsewhere, says Das.
“The CBSE ‘moderation’ policy prescribes that certain students who’ve had more difficult papers will be adjusted by a minor amount — no more than 1 to 5 marks — to make up for the difference in difficulty in comparison to other papers. These [this year’s Delhi] numbers don’t represent a ‘minor’ increase by any means,” Das wrote in an email to The Indian Express.
“Strangely, if we simply look at the proportion of Delhi private school test takers who scored 96 and more compared to the rest of the student population, we find that it’s 1.53 per cent versus 1 per cent. In other words, Delhi school kids are only 50 per cent more likely to score 96 and above in English (Core) than kids in the rest of the country, which indicates that Delhi private school kids are not 11 times better in English than their non-Delhi counterparts,” he said.
CBSE sets different question papers for schools in the Delhi region and the rest of the country. It also has different moderation and marking schemes for test takers in Delhi and elsewhere. The Board’s “Delhi region” includes international schools in countries such as Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, and Qatar.
At a meeting held in Delhi on April 24, CBSE, along with over 30 state Boards, had resolved to scrap the practice of inflating Class XII results. The data analysis by Das, however, suggests CBSE may not have fulfilled its commitment, and may have awarded more marks to students in the Delhi region compared to non-Delhi students.
“This practice is not new to the CBSE. In fact, last year, 27 per cent of Delhi candidates (17,080 of 62,963) scored exactly 95, which was 65 per cent of the national 95s,” Das wrote. In 2016, Das had mined 70 per cent of the CBSE Class XII results data.
According to Das’s analysis, 71 per cent of the 267 students of the capital’s Sanskriti School scored 95 or more in English. At DPS Vasant Kunj, 73 per cent of the class of 470 got 95 or more. At DPS RK Puram, the number was 57 per cent (of the class of 969).
This success story is, however, not repeated in prestigious schools in other parts of the country. At Lakshmipat Singhania Academy, a premier CBSE institution in Kolkata, which has been ranked among India’s top 50 schools this year based on its aggregate, only 6 per cent of the class of 124 got 95 or more in English — this, despite the school’s median aggregate score being 90, which was higher than that of both DPS Vasant Kunj and Sanskriti School in Delhi.
“And this [Lakshmipat Singhania Academy] is not an outlier,” wrote Das. “Sushila Birla [Girls’ School, also in Kolkata] has over half their class of 183 scoring above 88.2 but merely 8 per cent got a 95+ in English. While Mount Carmel School Anand Niketan (223 students), in Delhi has a median of 81 in aggregate, 62 per cent of their students scored a 95+ in English. We’re taking multiple instances of similar calibre institutions and the 95 rate varies from 3 per cent to 62 per cent!!” Das wrote.
CBSE Chairman R K Chaturvedi did not respond to calls and an SMS from The Indian Express. Das, who went to Cornell University, first mined and analysed CBSE and Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) results in 2013 to suggest misuse of “moderation” by the Boards to inflate their students’ marks.
“My affinity to do these analyses comes from my fondness for data and numbers, and my personal experiences going through the system. Personally, I distinctly remember missing a 5-mark problem in Computer Science, but getting a 100 in the end (in the ICSE). I initially started working on analysing these exams in 2013,” Das wrote.