While the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) deserves compliments for having declared the Class 12 examination results in record time ~ 28 days ~ it is fairly palpable that the evaluation has been greeted with a fair measure of scepticism at senior levels of the academic circuit.

Not the least because the two candidates who have shared the top position have scored an astonishing, almost incredible, 499 ~ out of 500 ~ in the humanities stream. Three other humanities students have been awarded 498. And of the 18 who have scored 497, only six are from the science stream. It is the marks tally that has raised eyebrows and not the conventional wisdom that science subjects are far more scoring than humanities.

This is not to militate against the stellar performance of those at the top, only to underline the necessity of ensuring that evaluation is suitably convincing at the time of college admission. There has been a sharp increase in the number of candidates who have scored above 90 per cent ~ 94,299 against 72,599 last year. Marking in CBSE exams has seldom, if ever, been so generous. Almost inevitable, therefore, is a higher admission cut-off mark or percentage point.

Arguably, the high marks, almost unprecedented, can be attributed to the objective-style format, which regretfully does not translate to a higher standard of learning. Not the least because it dispenses with the narrative style of answering essay-type question papers. The trend, which has been pronounced this year, has been manifest ever since CBSE adopted the multiple- choice and short answer type questions.

High marks indicate that the students have learnt how to crack the code of the examination, not necessarily that they have grasped the concepts. It is the pattern of the question papers that calls for reflection. “Students are not being trained to develop a coherent argument on the subject they are studying,” is the lament of the Central Institute of Education under Delhi University. Not to put too fine a point on it, the praxis could well lead to a system of cutting corners in course of the search of learning.

At the Class 12 level, indeed the threshold of the transition to the under-graduate stage, a student’s knowledge of the chosen subjects must of necessity be comprehensive to the extent possible. Objective type questions lend no scope for incisive learning. As the principal of a school in Delhi has remarked, a sharp increase in scores does not imply ipso facto that learning, verily the acquisition of knowledge, has improved.

“A score of 80 per cent now is equivalent to 50 per cent many years ago. The students are scoring 100 out of 100 even in social science subjects”. This is absurd, to say the least. Misgivings that the purpose of education might thus get defeated are not wholly unfounded. Generous marks and liberalised evaluation can, at the end of the day, be counterproductive.