Prove percentiles are fair, says HC

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court, in a terse one-liner on Thursday, asked the state government to “justify that the percentile formula is fair to all students’’ and not satisfied with the state’s stand, adjourned by a day the hearing of the public interest litigation filed against the government’s controversial system. The final round of admission to FYJC ended across college campuses on the same day, with several students still without a junior college berth. A state official said there were still many vacant seats in colleges and the government would advertise them so that every class-X passout was accommodated. Inside the court, however, the state government was at pains to point out that its percentile system would bring parity between different education boards and admitted that the new system aimed to enable SSC students compete with students passing out of CBSE and ICSE boards. The division bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice A P Deshpande questioned why the decision to introduce the new system was taken just three days before the SSC results were declared. Chief Justice Kumar also wondered why only the “top 10’’ students from each board were considered while drawing up the average marks for calculating the percentile cut-off. “If I’m rank number 11 from a particular board, why should I suffer because of the performance of the top-10 rankers of my board?’’ he asked. The ICSE board counsel requested the CJ to pass an order as admissions had already begun but the latter said they could always switch colleges. “I will only pass an order when I’m convinced of the matter,’’ he added. Both the ICSE Council and the Association of ICSE Schools in Maharashtra submitted affidavits in court, saying they had been kept in the dark over the state government’s percentile system. The ICSE Council affidavit said the percentile system was taken up by the state board without consulting the association despite there being a Council of Boards of Secondary Education (COBSE) comprising ICSE, CBSE and other state boards (including the Maharashtra State Board). The ICSE Council’s affidavit slammed the government argument that SSC students had more languages to study and hence scored fewer marks. The Council said its syllabus was more rigorous than the SSC syllabus and even attached a copy of an SSC and an ICSE board English paper to illustrate the difference between the two. The affidavit added that the ICSE board regularly updated and upgraded its syllabus to ensure a high quality of education and it was unfair to deny an ICSE student a seat in junior colleges because the state board had failed to upgrade its syllabus. Both the ICSE Council as well as the Association of ICSE Schools said they were not invited to the June 26 meeting where the government decided to implement percentiles. The Association of ICSE Schools’ affidavit said only one ICSE principal, Reetu Duggal of Thakur Public School, was asked over telephone to attend an emergency meeting on June 13, which was convened by the education officer of Northwest Mumbai. The affidavit added that Duggal was told that the principals of other ICSE schools would also be present but neither the Association of ICSE Schools nor its member schools were informed of the meeting. Duggal herself filed an affidavit saying she had attended the meeting in her individual capacity and was not authorised by the ICSE Council to act on its behalf. Assistant government pleader Jyoti Pawar questioned why CBSE and ICSE students needed to take admission to state-run junior colleges. “Both CBSE and ICSE have their own board for the 12th standard, why do they want to take admission in our board (SSC)?’’ Pawar asked to which the ICSE Council lawyer pointed out that it was their constitutional right to do so.
25 Jul 2008, 0051 hrs IST, Anahita Mukherji,TNN


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