Editorial Analysis: Why Indian SAT is answer to rising grade inflation

Indian SAT

Approx Read Time: 4 min

Indian SAT
Indian SAT

Grade inflation in India:

  • The practice of ‘grade inflation’ – awarding of higher grades than students deserve – is seen as quite common in India.
  • This is because of over-reliance on senior-secondary (class XII) scores for entry into higher education in India, with many colleges posting very very high cut-offs.
    • For instance, while the economics honours programme had a cut-off of 90% in top-rung colleges under Delhi University a decade ago, this has now reached 98%.
  • Consequently, various education boards try to out-compete each other on liberal marking, perpetuating a culture of competitive grade inflation.
    • Even this year, the number of students securing over 90% under various boards increased from 94,000 in 2019 to 1.6 lakh in 2020.
    • Those scoring over 95%, on the other hand, rose 2.18 times, to 38,688, as compared to last year.

Efforts to cut this by having exams instead of grades as basis for admission:

  • AICTE, MCI and national law schools have successfully eliminated over-reliance on boards and got colleges to agree on a single admission test.
  • In 2020, the HRD ministry reduced the burden for IIT aspirants by striking down Class XII scores as a barrier to engineering education.
  • In the previous years, although the IIT-JEE was primary criterion for IIT admissions, a student was still required to have high performance in board exams to be eligible for admission.
  • In the senior-secondary examinations of the Board, students had to score either score 75% or be in top 20% of the students who passed the board.

Efforts are now on have single exam for admission to central universities:

  • While MCI, AICTE and IITs have moved to common exam to cut reliance on board marks, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has failed in this endeavour.
  • However, the union ministry of education (MoE), in line with the New Education Policy 2020, is now planning to create a single exam for admission to graduate (with honours) courses at central universities.
  • R P Tiwari committee:
    • The education ministry has constituted a committee that will decide on modalities of a common entrance test for admission across all central universities starting academic year 2021-22.
    • The seven-member committee is headed by Vice-Chancellor of Central University of Punjab R P Tiwari.

This test will be similar to SAT in the US:

  • Under the new format, the entrance test would form the basis of admission, with the students needing to meet a specific eligibility criteria.
  • It would entail students taking a computer-based test with a general aptitude component and a subject-specific component conducted by National Testing Authority.
  • The proposal is to conduct the test twice a year, on the lines of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) in the US.

This will be an important step:

  • Given how grade inflation has been rising each year in India, there is a desperate need for colleges to switch to a new format.
  • Over time, a common entrance test will also help lesser known universities with good performance move up in students preference.
    • This will help such universities attract teaching and research talent apart from industry collaborations for placement.  

Challenges to this plan:

  • Though the idea has merit, convincing universities to agree to a common entrance examination will not be easy, given the various course structures and curricula.
  • For instance, though an entrance exam for central universities is conducted by the Central University of Rajasthan, only 14 central and four state universities admit students through this route. However, the list of 14 doesn’t include any big names like Delhi University or BHU.

Conclusion: Indian SAT

  • The initiative of the union ministry of education (MoE) to create a single exam for admission to graduate courses at central universities is an excellent one.
  • It will have many benefits, from reducing grade inflation in senior secondary boards to creating a competitive space for central universities to  recruit student and teaching talent.

Also Read: Less stress on boards, common college entrance test in sweeping edu reforms

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