Three years of Modi govt: Who’s going to bell the CBSE’s bell-curve?

Three years of Modi govt: Who’s going to bell the CBSE’s bell-curve?

This is the conundrum faced by colleges who are forced to tell applicants that their high marks might not be high enough.

CBSE, Central Board of Secondary Education, Class XII results, Class XII marks, Delhi University cut offs, DU cut offs, Delhi University entrance, india education, india news, indian express
Delhi University. (Source: File)

What do you say to a 17-year old who has scored 96 per cent marks in class XII but doesn’t get admission in a Delhi University college of her choice?

This is the conundrum faced by colleges who are forced to tell applicants that their high marks might not be high enough. As parents await the Central Board of Secondary Education’s (CBSE) next move after the Delhi High Court asked them to continue with its “moderation policy” this year, this question becomes more important.

Over the past seven years, experts at Delhi University say, CBSE as well as state boards have been inflating exam results — called “moderation” — so that students are able to better compete with those from other boards in the country. This has resulted in ever-higher cut-offs, but ironically, the ability of applicants to get the course and college of their choice has become well nigh impossible.

Over the past decade, the “moderation” policy followed by all examination boards, including CBSE, has meant an artificial increase in the number of students scoring above 90 per cent marks. The cut-offs in Delhi University – among the most sought after universities in the country – have consequently shot up to a level when aspirants who score even more than 95 per cent realise they might not stand a chance, ending their dream run in despair.


To top this, most teachers at Delhi University say a number of students who come to them after scoring in the high 90s lack rigour and a culture of enquiry.

The idea behind the moderation policy, which CBSE started in 1992, was to ensure a level playing field for all students keeping in mind the difficulty level of some questions, differences between a variety of sets of papers, and marking techniques.

The idea was to have a distribution of results within the bell curve, which states that the number of students who perform poorly and those who perform exceedingly well are much fewer than the ones who fall within the average category. When results are plotted on a graph, it resembles a bell.

Over the years, however, the moderation policy has ended up skewing the results, meaning, the number of students who score more than 90 per cent has grown leaps and bounds.

In 2008, this number was less than 400. It grew to 8,971 in 2014 and in 2016 stood at 14,000.

Rather than creating a level playing filed, the current form of “moderation” deludes applicants and parents who think they are entitled to a college and course of their choice if they become part of this ’95 per cent club’. This generates outrage when admission in top colleges is elusive. What they forget is that thousands of others have achieved the same ‘feat’ – pushing cut-offs beyond the reach of this club.

CBSE is not the only one responsible for driving up university cut-offs. When Shri Ram College of Commerce declared a cut-off of 100 per cent a few years ago, at least two students from the Kerala state board got in with the perfect score. The four even had 100 per cent marks in English!

In fact, it is this unhealthy competition between boards that has led to inflated marks and a non-transparent moderation policy.

The order of the Delhi High Court, asking CBSE to continue with the moderation policy is also unfair to boards that have already released results with moderating marks. The Punjab Board, which declared class X results declared on Mondayshowed a dip of 15 per cent in the pass percentage. The class XII pass percentage also saw a dip earlier this month. The Odisha and Kerala state boards seem to have continued with moderation, putting other others at a disadvantage.

Moderation is an important method to ensure level playing field, but not in its current form where the effort of each board is that more and more if its students score over 90 per cent marks, irrespective of whether they deserve to or not. A transparent moderation policy and formula is much needed.

What students and parents need is a reality check, not marks bumped up artificially to feed competition between state and national boards.


Question is, who’s going to bell the CBSE’s bell-curve?