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Different education boards creating havoc and heartburn

July 21, 2008

The 85 and 90 percent scorers are not getting admission into “good” junior colleges because of the revised admission system (percentiles being taken into account across various boards rather than actual percentages) and this has resulted in a lot of heartburn amongst students.

The Maharashtra government introduced the percentile system to right a wrong but their method could well boomerang on the SSC students (SSC is the Maharashtra State Education board for the 10th grade).

The problem
It’s an established fact that ICSE and CBSE students (central government boards for 10th grade) get more marks and thus corner most of the seats in the best junior colleges in Maharashtra (In Maharashtra 11th and 12th grade is usually at college).

The ICSC students believe that their course is better than that of SSC and of a higher standard, and thus they deserve getting most of the seats in top colleges. They also believe that the percentile system is unfair.

The SSC students believe that they are marked strictly, one of the reasons being that they have to study three languages instead of two…and language papers are not scoring.

(Here is a link which tabulates briefly the various attributes of the three boards mentioned above. The comparison is by no means comprehensive, but I couldn’t find anything more authoritative.)

The SSC students have lived with the ignominy of being “SSC” students for some time now (in the eyes of ICSC and CBSE students and some educationists as well) and the Maharashtra education board has done nothing about it…instead they have sat back and allowed their students to languish in the “not so good” colleges for years. I am putting “good” colleges into inverted commas as many a time I doubt that these are the “best” colleges. Suffice to say that they are colleges in which everyone wants admission.

The solution?
This academic year the Maharashtra government suddenly woke up and wanted to normalise marks to create a more equitable system. They hastily implemented the percentile system. The result? Chaos. ICSC students are panicking as their toppers, who usually had no problem securing admissions to the ‘best” colleges, are now forced to look at alternatives. The rush to get admissions has resulted in reports that students and parents are under tremendous tension because of unavailibility of seats and some are going to counselors. On the other hand, SSC students are relieved because for the first time SSC toppers are finding a place in the top colleges.

Expectedly, the courts are being called in to end the confusion, the heart burn and the blame game.

The other side of the coin
I think its important to see the issue holistically. I don’t want to get into the merits or demerits of the percentile system because I am not an educationist, and more importantly…the matter is being heard by the courts. In fact the courts have suggested an alternative “reservation” system for SSC students instead of the percentile system but I am sure no one is going to like this either.

And that’s not what I want to get into…I simply want to point out that if the syllabus of the SSC students is different or inferior in some way, it’s not their fault. If they do not study in ICSC schools, it’s not their fault. In fact SSC students are mostly from middle class families and often cannot afford ICSE schools which often charge higher fees.

The majority of students in the state study SSC, and its usually the upper classes and/or those who shift cities frequently who put their children in ICSE schools. If the merit lists of the top colleges are mostly filled up by the ICSE and CBSC board students who make up a minority of those who pass out of the 10th standard, does that sound like an equitable system? Something is seriously wrong.

What I find disgusting is the way mainstream newspapers are going on and on about the injustice to ICSC students. I wonder if they have given a thought to the thousands of bright SSC toppers who have been denied admission into the “top” colleges year after year?

No one is disagreeing with the fact that ICSE and CBSC syllabus is more comprehensive, but the issue here is that of marks, not syllabus. The SSC students are being denied admission because of their marks, not because of their syllabus. The fact of the matter is, no matter how hard a SSC student tries he/she cannot get past a marks barrier (especially in the language papers) as it has been a tradition to be stingy with marks.

Standardise school education!!
Those against the percentile system say that let SSC be more lenient with marks! Improve the SSC syIlabus! But scrap the percentile system.

But even if these things are done, the different boards will remain different. I don’t know why they have to have so many different boards in the first place. There are so many state boards that it always creates confusion. Surely, our country needs to standardise school education? One keeps hearing of changes and improvements taking place within the boards, but I don’t hear of any plan to standardize education across India…I wonder why such a plan isn’t on the anvil.

So what is the solution to this problem? I cannot answer this question because it is possible that the normalisation being implemented by the Maharashtra government is incorrect. The courts and the educationists will decide that.

Having been a priviliged ICSC student myself I can sympathise with the plight of ICSC students who have studied long hours and whose dreams now seem to be shattered. I can also sympathise with those bright SSC students, few of whom can score 98 percent in their 10th grade…but are nevertheless bright and hardworking, who have been relegated to unknown colleges for years now.

If a solution has to be found, it has to ensure that good students from all boards and all classes of society get an equal opportunity to study in top colleges.

I don’t know how the government is going to solve this equitably, but they should do it fast because people’s careers are at stake.

(Photos are stock photos taken by me and copyrighted)

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31 Comments leave one →
  1. Vikram permalink
    July 21, 2008 9:02 am

    Well, are you talking about standardizing school ‘education’ or ‘college admission’ ? There is no way you can standardize school education, first of all it violates the Constitution and second, its not logical. There is no way you can have the same school syllabus in Ladakh and Kerala, its not beneficial and goes against the spirit of Indian pluralism.

    But you can standardize college admission, and percentile ranking sounds to be good first step according to me. The GRE and SAT give percentile scores. This ensures comparability not only across differing education boards but also across different academic years.

  2. July 21, 2008 9:30 am

    You mean CBSE, right?

    BTW, is it only me or this blog page is not loading properly (display is a bit messed up, all the formatting is stripped off the text)

  3. July 21, 2008 9:31 am

    Oops, loading okay now!!

  4. Sakhi permalink
    July 21, 2008 9:39 am

    The whole education system in India is down the drain.. and i know it is more so in Gujarat! Evvery year there are some changes and then the resultant chaos. The sutdents are at the receiving end! 😦

  5. July 21, 2008 9:53 am

    Tamil Nadu faces this problem in a different way. State Board children score more than others. Most of the children are forced by the parents to switch over to state board in 11th and 12th standards to score more marks. Those who don’t switch over suffer to get college admissions. Regarding standardization, regional political parties won’t support.

  6. batta420 permalink
    July 21, 2008 10:02 am

    I agree with vikram that there is no way to standardise education.
    People put their children in the CBSE and ICSE schools because its different and having higher standard of education. If they are made same as the SSC then CBSE and ICSE would loose their students.
    CBSE going students are mosly the children of people who have frequent job transfers and CBSe serves as a standard curriculum all over India.
    Also education cannot be standardised because each state have their own language, culture, histort etc,etc….A standardised system would not be able to teach the students more about their state….

  7. July 21, 2008 10:43 am

    Vikram and Batta420, I think you guys misunderstood me but I think that was because I was not clear what I meant. I certainly didn’t mean it literally in the narrow sense, but in the broad sense. For example, formats of questions papers and the type of answers required (short, one or two lines, paras etc), number of languages taught (they can differ), style of marking, number of subjects etc. I think this is the need of the hour. We cannot have the unjust system that is on now.

    And Vikram, I too found the percentile system just when I first heard of it, but after hearing people protesting I thought maybe something is wrong with it. But on the face of it, yes, the percentile system seems fair.

    And Batta420, no board needs to worsen its education standard. i am talking of upgrading.

    vivek, will make the correction.

    Old Sailor, Sakhi, the whole system is skewed and we need to do something but what or how is not something I am a hundred percent sure of.

  8. July 21, 2008 11:46 am

    My father had a transferable job, so I did my 12 from West Bengal from CBSE. In West Bengal, preference in Calcutta colleges is clearly to WB board students. They would admit CBSE students on only 10-15 seat that too after reducing their marks! For obvious reasons, I did not even apply there. I cam straight to Delhi to my grandparents to study.

    Why we need different boards in place? Also, state board syllabus are archaic and burdensome and they do them and other injustice by priding on strict marking 😦

  9. July 21, 2008 1:56 pm

    I support the percentile system.
    If the marking/gradation systems of different Boards do not have parity, then its only fair to consider ‘percentiles’, so that good students get admission into “good colleges”, irrespective of their boards.

    @Poonam ,
    you are absolutely right.

    But the situation has altered completely in the recent past.

    According to a Telegraph report by Mita Mukherjee, dated July 11-208:

    Higher Secondary (HS) students have lost out to ISC and CBSE students in college admissions this year as a result of the HS council’s failure to make the examination as high-scoring as the other two.

    Fewer state board students have secured seats in premier city colleges in 2007 compared with the past few years. In many of the colleges, more than 60 to 70 per cent of the seats have gone to students from the Delhi boards. Students from the ISC and CBSE boards had been managing between 40 and 50 per cent of the seats in reputed colleges till 2006.
    “Most of the applicants who have scored 80 per cent or more are from the ISC and CBSE boards. They have beaten the applicants from the state board,” stated Presidency College principal Mamata Ray.

    The college heads attributed the change in the top colleges to two reasons. One is students from other boards outscoring the HS board candidates.

    The other, and more vital, reason is a Calcutta University directive that prevented the colleges from deducting a percentage of marks scored by the ICSE and CBSE students to bring about parity.

    Source :

  10. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    July 21, 2008 2:15 pm

    Vikram has raised a very pertinent point. The only extent to which standardisation of school curricula may be even be considered is in English Language (NOT Literature), Maths and the Natural Sciences. And for the 99.99% for whom school education is merely the means to obtain a certificate that qualifies them to apply for college, that should be enough.

    On no account must the humanities and social sciences be allowed to get out of the state boards’ control. As a matter of fact, it should be further decentralised to allow for more locale-specific learning. Even within the natural sciences, life sciences curricula up to the secondary (std. 10) level, should be more relevant to local biogeographic contexts.

  11. July 21, 2008 3:56 pm

    I think every university or college with any type of course should have a entrance exam(as reqd. by the course), so that everyone gets equal opportunity irrespective of which board they studied from, and no one gets to brag that their board exam was tougher.

    As for the boards, only minimum pc should be set a prerequisite.

  12. July 21, 2008 4:32 pm

    lol since i have math exam tmro,my comment will be completely biased…i think our country needs to revamp its education system or else well we don’t need education…

  13. July 21, 2008 4:34 pm

    you know what …
    I hate the education system here in tamil nadu ..
    The majority of studends study in state board which is relatively easier than CBSE .. (i feel CBSE itself is easier)
    People studyign here in state board get about 98 99 percent…not few but many of them get such percentages
    and the engineering colleges give afdmission by seeing the board marks (there was an entrance test whihic was taken into consideration too ) but now that has been abolished.just board marks ..
    so the students (very few oif them ) who are from CBSE dont get seats in good colleges even if they score 93-94 percent whcih is an excellant score ..
    when i came to chennai 4 years back i was shocked to see such thing ..i mean i had got jsut 80 percent and it was considered as bad as failing ..can u beleive it..finally i ended up studyign in a deemed university ..

    the only solution is a single board with a single entrance exam…

  14. wishtobeanon permalink
    July 21, 2008 6:38 pm

    Hi Nita, good post once again! I studied the SSC and I remember seeing the textbooks used by CBSE or ICSE long ago and there was a whole lot of differences between them even in the Sciences and Math. I agree with you that the education system needs to be standardized atleast as far as techniques in teaching, examination and grading and of course, the subjects like Math, Science and English, are concerned.

  15. Ravi permalink
    July 21, 2008 7:33 pm


    Were you referring to the Govt. Junior colleges? I studied the SSC from Andhra Pradesh. And I did my plus 2 in Narayana Junior College I don’t think they have any preference for SSC or CBSE students. They go by marks to give admission and the AP govt doesn’t interfere with the admission process of any private junior college.

    Then for undergrad you need to write an entrance test obviously you must score well enough to get into a good school. It doesnt matter if you are CBSE or SSC you MUST get a good rank to get a call letter for counseling.

    Still Im kinda confused how different boards influence our changes of getting into good schools. Is the education system is MH is different from AP? Maybe, I don’t know.

  16. Ravi permalink
    July 21, 2008 7:41 pm

    I have just read the comments here and really shocked to see that some colleges do not conduct entrance exams and they just admit like that.

    WOW! this is some thing that must be considered as back door for rich to get into good schools.

    In AP almost every college (Engg/Med/Arts N Science) is affiliated to some university and the university conduct entrance exams, based on the merit they rank the students and they call for counseling accordingly. You don’t have to worry about getting in to a school of your choice if you score well.

    Giving admission without conducting entrance test is barbaric.

  17. July 21, 2008 7:49 pm

    Poonam, we lived in Kolkata and the Madhyamik system was considered very difficult so I know what you mean. Actually in this whole mess, its the students who have to suffer for no fault of their own.

    Rahul, the fact that Kolkata university is not allowing the reduction of marks for ICSC is news to me! Thanks for that information. However I think this is going to create a lot of heartburn amongst the local board students.

    Vivek, yes local cultures need to be kept in mind.

    Vishesh, thanks and best of luck for tomorrow.

    Anshul, if they don’t have a marks equalisation system, then an entrance exam is the only answer, much like CAT and CET. But how many exams are students supposed to give! Its just sad!

    Arvind, so in TN its just the opposite like Old Sailor also mentioned. Most unfair for the others. A single board is ideal, but it won’t work in a diverse country like India. Perhaps we can find a mid-way solution, like having Science and Maths all exactly the same (like Vivek suggested) and some differences in Humanities subjects, but again system of marking, number of subjects etc have to be similar and transparent. I don’t know why such a system is not being implemented. To me at least its obvious that it needs to be done.

    wishtobeanon, thanks. 🙂

    Ravi, its different in different states and you are talking of AP. Perhaps the AP SSC is similar in giving out marks like ICSC and CBSE and that is why trouble hasn’t arisen. For eg, the SSC in Maharashtra is stingy with marks just like the Madhyamik (West Bengal local board) is and therefore even toppers don’t get very high marks. Naturally they don’t get into the best colleges. However I had no idea that there is an entrance exam to get into junior college in AP. there is no such thing in Maharashtra.

  18. July 21, 2008 8:49 pm

    you are right. it is causing a lot of Heartburn amongst the local board students. As a result many good schools are switching to CBSE or ICSE board, so that their students don’t have to suffer at the time of admission. Nowadays many students (& parents) prefer to study in CBSE/ICSE boards for the same reason.

    I would personally prefer a Single Board for all of India. Untill then percentile should be used.

  19. Ravi permalink
    July 21, 2008 9:26 pm

    Single board would be a monopoly like they would chose the languages for us. When I was in plus we had a choice to take Telugu/Hindi and Sanskrit and I chose Sanskrit cause its easy to learn and score points. We should always be left with choice and the process of selecting students for various schools must be revamped so that everyone would be treated fairly.


    There is no entrance exam in AP for junior level I was talking about the Undergrad..sorry for confusin you… 🙂

  20. July 21, 2008 9:30 pm

    Entrance exams are good ways of filtering the top candidates. Tamil Nadu board had conducted entrance exams for long for the college admissions, but now they have done away with it. In my opinion, Entrance exams added with the School marks is a good way of allotting colleges for students.

    Unfortunately, the govt will only play politics with this and mainstream media will try more publicity and rating stunts.

  21. Vikram permalink
    July 21, 2008 9:39 pm

    I am shocked at the number of people, Poonam, Rahul etc, suggesting an unconstitutional solution to this problem. Education, is a state subject in the Indian consti. To amend this will require 2/3 majority of parliament, and assenting majorities in 1/2 of the state legislatures. Standardized tests seem to be a more suitable way according to me.

  22. July 21, 2008 10:37 pm

    I know Nita, that is sad, but I was saying all this, since I have already passed this stage…. :mrgreen:

  23. July 21, 2008 10:39 pm

    //It’s an established fact that ICSE and CBSE students (central government boards for 10th grade) get more marks//
    In my state its the opposite case. The state board’s students get more marks as its comparatively easier . Infact when in MP too, the board is easier thats why lots of Keralian students used to come to clear their 10/12 th from there. So CBSE students are considered better as they score after studying harder syllabus and tougher exam.
    I think for an equitable system, first of all the syllabus of both boards need to be reviewed and made of similar standard. Lots of students of state board which is mostly Hindi medium (they start studying english late) face lots of problems in technical lines like engineering and just go on flunking papers as they r unable to express or comprehend books which are all in English. Thats why in Engg there is a subject called Communication Skills in 1st yr but sadly that doesnt quite help them. Likewise happens for students in other state boards too I think who study the regional language as First language.
    A benchmark must be decided and boards/syllabus/cut off marks should be decided according to that so that its fair to all.
    I too did a post on technical education today. Education day on blogosphere 😀

  24. July 22, 2008 12:19 am

    Won’t it be better if we have a single Board system throughout India? I am not sure if it might lead to some problems initially but atleast we can judge the students on an single platform. I think Hindi medium schools should be turned into English medium. Its important that everyone learns the Universal language.

  25. Ravi permalink
    July 22, 2008 3:22 am

    LOL@ single board system…cause some day some section of people would do rasta rokhos and bandhs for not including a lesson on Lalu or Mayawati. Then it would be a bane to entire country to know about these filthy politicians.

  26. July 22, 2008 11:05 am

    Rahul, Amit, I too would prefer it but its difficult in the present scenario.

    Dineshbabu, I agree education has been corrupted by politics.

    Ravi, no that should never be allowed to happen. If there is a single board, there has to be flexibility about subjects. In all boards like IB for example a wide range of subjects are available, and one can mix and match science and humanities (unlike in India) and also there are higher and lower levels for subjects, and very few subjects are compulsory as such, but there are a minimum amount of majors and minors one has to take. also syllabi needs to be different.

    Vikram, if one sees it from a youngster’s point of view, I think their straighforward solution makes sense but you are right in the sense that the states will create hurdles because of political reasons. Its always the young people who suffer because of this and they don’t care about politics.
    I wonder if it is possible to have one board and different syllabi. If it is possible, I think also an alternative solution.

    Reema, so in MP too the local board is scoring. Looks like only in Maharashtra and Bengal it is not! about the medium of instruction, yes all vernacular medium students face a problem when they enter college. Even if they retain their medium, I think English should be taught at a higher level.

  27. July 22, 2008 12:21 pm

    @Rahul: Now that was news to me! I have been out of sync with education system in WB for several years now. I cant say I am happy at this news, because this time WB board students are suffering.

    @Nita: Seriously Nita, WB board needs to be revised to be at par. No point in having archaic difficult syllabus!

  28. July 22, 2008 2:21 pm

    When we were in class IX, students in my ICSE Board school, who did not do well were advised to switch to CBSE or State Board Schools to improve their scores! The only way to ensure that there is some uniformity is Standardized Admission Tests like SAT in the United States. Students from all over the country/world can compete and join the colleges they deserve.

  29. July 30, 2008 7:42 pm

    We might believe that ICSE students are performing better than most other and the curriculum is far superior than others, but it’s sad that after all this internationally we are below average.

    The problem is that NCERT do not allow any sort of assessment of their curriculum or education. They would like to believe that if there are some who are successful it is obviously the problem with the teaching and not the curriculum.

    Even if the curriculum were to change the teachers will not change their old fashioned ways of teaching and the misconceptions will be passed from one -brain to the other without actually realising the damage caused.

    Schools are expense all over, regardless of the board. It’s not the board that creates the problem, As you right mentioned that there are some bright state board students… Yes! there are and there would be more if there was more encouragement given to the profession of teaching. More credit to the role being played and may be more tools that would make the teaching-learning fun.

    Secondly parents need to insist on assessment – external and internal and send a reality check to the schools. They need to take much more interest in what the child is learning apart from the fees and the *number* of extra curricular activities that the child does.

  30. ruby permalink
    August 7, 2008 4:03 pm

    Schooling as far as I feel is schooling . Syllabus doesn’t matter.

  31. Zeena permalink
    May 11, 2009 6:36 am

    Please ask these so called Gods of the Maharashtra State Education Board, because that’s what they are trying to play, to study the syllabus and marking criteria of the various boards, i.e, SSC, ICSE and CBSE, before they try to play god. The level of the CBSE and ICSE are far superior than others. If the percentile system is to be made fair for all involved the syllabus of all should be updated and in par with each other.

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