The Madras High Court has observed that system of negative marking system in competitive examinations requires reconsideration and has to be done away with.
Justice R. Mahadevan, while disposing of a petition filed by Nelson Prabhakar observed that the very system of awarding negative marks is improper and against the principles of fairness, equality and equity. The judge said that this system does not, in anyway, helps the examiner to analyse the intelligence, aptitude or knowledge of the students in any manner.
The writ petition filed by Nelson sought for a direction to CBSE to revalue his answer sheets of the Physics and Mathematics of JEE (Main) 2013. Even though the court had granted him an interim order permitting him to write the JEE Advance Level examination, he was not allowed by to take part in the examination on the ground that no order was communicated.
Though the writ petition became infructuous, Nelson's lawyer (Advocate A. Arulmozhi) urged the court to address his concerns against negative marking system. Citing examples of system followed in various countries and also in CMC, Vellore, he sought for a direction to the CBSE to withdraw / strike down the method of negative marking. CBSE defended the system stating that object of having negative marks in the competitive examination is to ensure that only diligent and deserving candidates get selected for admission in the colleges offering professional courses, which cannot be found fault with.
Justice Mahadevan agreed with Nelson's counsel and opined that negative marking is a source of discouragement in the minds of the student. Terming 'intelligent guessing' as an art, the judge said that it should be permitted and encouraged. The court also observed that the threat of negative marks will never allow intuition to grow in a student and it also makes the student approaches every question with an element of fear. The court further observed that there is no scientific proof in support of negative marking system that it helps to choose best candidates from the competitive examination.
The court also observed that most advanced countries like the UK, Canada, Australia and Russia have stopped the practice of negative marking. Even in India, the renowned CMC, Vellore, one of the best colleges in the field of medicine, does not award negative marks in their entrance examination for admission to medical college, the judge said.
As an alternative to negative marking system, the court suggested that the number of alternatives in each question from which the candidates have to choose the correct answer, can be increased.
Following are some observations made by Justice Mahadevan in the judgment.
Intelligent Guessing Should Be Permitted And Encouraged
"Negative marking does not allow a student to develop an element of guessing. Intellegent guessing is an art. It is very useful in our life. One cannot be sure about all things at all times. An individual will come across a situation, where he/she has to decide an issue not merely based on his knowledge, but with little guessing. Wild guessing is another type of guessing. While intelligent guessing requires an amount of prior knowledge on the subject, wild guessing is the decision taken just like that. In a competitive examination, the students come prepared with varied degree of preparation. As such, when a student is not sure about the answer, he/she attempts to take intelligent guessing. This type of intelligent guessing should be permitted and encouraged, as it would help the students in their future life, whereas, the attempt of CBSE in awarding negative marks would totally eradicate the habit of intelligent guessing. The CBSE expects a student to know all the answers and be confident while taking the examination. This cannot be expected from all the students. Therefore, negative marking acts only as a bolt in the brain development of the students."
Negative Marking Attempts To Crush The Bud Of Imagination
"Albert Einstein stated, "Imagination is more important than knowledge". When knowledge denotes accumulation of proven facts, imagination explores the areas of disproving the existing belief and paving paths to new world. Imagination is the mother of all inventions and discoveries. Without imagination, there is no creativity. The urge to create something new or develop something new, comes from imagination. In short, imagination is the seed for all the man made developments, on this planet. The threat of negative marking attempts to crush the bud of imagination. Success and failures are like two sides of the same coin. Therefore, a student should be taught to face mistakes and failures and see it a part of life."
The Intuition Of A Student Is Crippled
"By awarding negative marks, the intuition of a student is crippled. Everyone comes across a situation in life where decisions are taken purely out of intuition. It may work or may not, but, an element of boldness comes along, while making a decision through intuition. The threat of negative marks will never allow in tuition to grow in a student."
There Has To Be A Level Playing Field
"Students, who take part in competitive examinations, come from different strata of society. Those hailing from affluent families, can afford to take private coaching and enhance their knowledge and techniques and the same cannot be expected from meritorious students coming from economically weaker background. There has to be a level playing field in examination in general, especially in competitive examination."
Student Approaches Every Question With An Element Of Fear
"Negative marking acts a weight behind the mental strength of a student and the student approaches every question with an element of fear. He/she has to be doubly cautious, while choosing the answer for the question. In other words, a student has to be confident about the answer. Such confidence of knowing each and every answers cannot be expected from the students, meritorious or otherwise. If there is no negative mark, the students are given an opportunity to take a wide thinking and apply intelligent guessing. This practice of taking an intelligent guess indeed, develops the brain of a student and builds his/her confidence to tackle any situation in future."