Yesterday, a wave of surprise swept over the internet as CICSE (Certificate for the Indian School Certificate Examination), the enviable, more qualified brother of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) announced that it was going to lower the percentage required for students to pass an exam.

I can already hear ICSE board students dancing in the streets.

What exactly happened? 

So, late last night, it was announced that both the ISC and the ICSE would be lowering their pass percentages. The passing marks for ICSE (i.e. class 10 examinations) would be 33% instead of 35%. And that for ISC (i.e. Class 12) would be 35% instead of 40%.

This announcement was made after a meeting of the Inter-Board working group, a body which is much like the leader in a class group project, trying to get all these unruly, lazy kids to work together.


This board is the same one which steps in and acts when moderation policy needs to be set between different boards and so on. It is vital to the smooth functioning of the various education boards.

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The decision to lower the pass percentages was taken to bring uniformity between the various education boards that dot the Indian peninsula, as the varied percentages made it unfair for the students in boards which had high passing marks.

A student from a CBSE board would pass his exams if he had scored 39% but would fail if he was on the ICSE board. This disparity is what supposedly brought this decision to a head. This decision will not impact students who are in Classes 10 and 12 right now. It will be implemented in the academic year 2018-19.

Not a smart move, not at all

But I have a few problems with this. In the name of uniformity, the IWBG has made, in my opinion, a bad decision.

Most of us are aware of the dire state that the Indian education system is in, with its many systemic failures and unfairness to students. I myself have been a victim of this unfairness, which is a story for another time.

These fatal flaws cannot be addressed by simply making the lowest common denominator the new normal. It is akin to a contingent of soldiers marching to the speed of the slowest one. Sure, it gives the appearance of equality and uniformity, but what it ends up doing is decreasing the incentive for people to perform more.

Now, you might say that this pass/fail system is unfair as it discriminates against students who do not have access to quality education. But then we need to provide quality education and not scrap the system itself.

Which is exactly what this move will do. It will create a whole segment of people who would have tried to perform harder and passed in the higher bracket but won’t, as they can now pass in 7 fewer percentage points than before.

A downgrade in productivity will only add to the woes of an increasingly crumbling education system and will surely bring uniformity in the short run, but will be detrimental to the integrity of the system in the long run.

Image Credits: Google Images

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