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The state’s decision to reject the grade system and revert to awarding marks in schools has sparked off an intense debate in academic circles. On the face of it, the move might seem regressive, carrying with it risk of severing Bengal’s evaluation system from the rest of the country, which has long embraced grades. But many experts believe that marks are the only feasible option because grades failed to solve the complicated cut-off requirements that confront students after board exams. The race for seats has made it impossible for colleges and universities to take in students solely on the basis of grades, say academics.

Since all boards continue to award marks along with grades, the grade system has turned out rather redundant in Class X and XII. Grades mean nothing more than mere alphabets for these students. For practical reasons, colleges, too, have fallen back on marks to Judge the merit of candidates. Unless the exam pattern is altered and the evaluation system re- jigged – putting more emphasis on consistency of performance to segregate the brilliant from the good, the average and the rest – the grade system makes no sense, say some experts.

Others call for an overhaul of the system, to make it work instead f clinging on to the old marks practice that has been the shown the door everywhere. “To make the grade system work, we need question papers that would escalate gradually in terms of toughness. Students ought to get critical after a point while writing their answers. Only that can separate the AA-graders from the A-graders. The difference between them would actually be much more than a few marks. Under the present system, that’s not happening.

So, colleges cant help but consider marks for admission which is negating the system,” says Prasanta Ray, professor Emeritus at Presidency University. It’s a Catch-22 situation, remarks CBSE chairman Vineet Joshi. It has been scientifically proven that there is a possibility of 5-15% variation under the marking system that could be done away with grades, he argues. “If the HRD ministry plans to make a uniform parameter to determine grades there will be tremendous criticism. Again, some state boards do not award good marks to students, so the disparity in marking will pose a problem.

But the grade system is better than marks because it does not put stress on students and ends the rat race,” he says. The grade system is evolving and will eventually prove to be an efficient one, feels Onkardarshan Adhikary, former president of West Bengal Higher Secondary Council. “We had modified it from 5-point to 7-point-grading. The National Curriculum Framework 2005 suggests that the Joy of learning should be the motive. In order to reduce competition we had introduced indirect grading, in which both numbers and grades were awarded.

In the aggregate, however, only grades were mentioned. We planned to fully implement the grading system without marks,” Adhikary says. For tnat to De erective, gra01ng nas to De more tnan Just an alpnaoetlcal epresentation of marks, says Pradip Ghosh, registrar, Jadavpur University. “We need to reserve the 80-100 zone only for the best. Then, we could have a grade for every five marks. Here, the difference between 89 and 90 wouldn’t be that of Just a mark but a qualitative one,” he explains.

Some schools, on the other hand, feel that it would be difficult. “There are seven subjects in secondary and six in higher secondary. I believe that when a certificate is awarded, they should recognise a student on the basis of marks scored. If grades are awarded, there is no way to pinpoint a fgure. Marks indicate the real quality of tudents. When a student applies to study abroad, they convert their marks on the basis of the parameter given by those universities,” says T H Ireland, principal, St James’ School.

But that has to be accompanied by a question pattern that supports the evaluation. “We have got used to awarding marks liberally. A new exam pattern that seeks to identify the best would invariably lead to stricter marking that may not be feasible politically,” says Prasanta Ray. Rupak Homeroy, principal of Ballygunge Government High School, agreed. “General guidelines are prepared to ensure that majority examinees can attempt all the uestions. The understanding or knowledge level of students is hardly tested.

The paper setters are given last three or five years question papers and asked to frame questions from them,” he says. But everyone seemed to be unanimous in the opinion that grades would have indeed removed stress and unnecessary competition, especially at the Junior level. “The shift back to marks is bad news for young students. For those taking the board exams, we need to work out a grade system that will make it easier for colleges to select candidates, without taking marks into consideration. It can be done,” says Ghosh.

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