CBSE Poem in CATE
After gathering momentum this year, as more colleges joined in to accept the Common Aptitude Test in English (CATE) for determining admissions into the much sought-after English (Hons) course at the Delhi University , the exam has now run into a controversy. Questions are being raised on how a poem that is part of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Class XII syllabus was reproduced in the question paper for the exam, held on June 10. The organisers’ ‘carelessness’ has put CBSE students at an advantage and has led to a row that could also drag in other state boards.
Shri Ram School, affiliated to the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), is the first to register a protest.
“We are very concerned about this issue and have taken it up with the Delhi University. The CATE was to be a neutral exam for an Honours course . It is carelessness to put in a poem from the CBSE Class XII syllabus and is extremely unfair to non-CBSE Board students. We have written to the CATE organisers and the Department of English, DU. We have also written to the CISCE to take the issue up on behalf of schools affiliated to it. DU cannot give unfair advantage to one group of students,” said Monica Sagar, vice-principal of Shri Ram School.
The school’s Aravalli branch has also supported the move to seek differential marking for students who were at a disadvantage in the exam.
At the centre of the controversy is the poem Aunt Jennifer’s Tiger by Adrienne Rich. The poem, which is part of the CBSE Class XII Core English syllabus, made an appearance in Part B of the CATE question paper. While Part A (carrying 50 marks) of the paper was of a qualifying nature and had a multiple choice question format, Part B (two questions carrying 50 marks) consisted of subjective-type questions; scores earned here were to decide the rank of a candidate. A critical appraisal of the poem was sought in this section.
Officials of the Department of English claimed the sub-committee of the CATE Board, which drafted the question paper for the exam this year, were not aware that the poem figures in the CBSE syllabus.
“Students from nearly 40 different examination boards are eligible to take the CATE. How can we go through the question paper of the syllabi for each of them? Those who set the question paper did not know the poem is part of the CBSE syllabus. There is nothing in the CATE rules that prevent us from taking questions from various syllabi. Still, the process of setting the paper could have been done better to avoid overlaps,” said CATE convenor Tapan Basu.
Professor Sumanyu Satpathy, Head of the English Department also echoed Basu’s views.
“The CATE Board sub-committee did not know of the overlap. I must also say that the questions asked on the same poem by the CBSE and CATE need to be tackled differently. CBSE tends to be more superficial; CATE questions are more sophisticated,” he said.
“English in CISCE Boards is a Literature-based paper, while CBSE emphasises more on the language aspect. In CBSE’s defence, it can be said that the 25-mark question in Part B asking students to review a book is more in keeping with the CISCE syllabus,” added Satpathy.
Satpathy confirmed the matter had come up for discussion at a June-11 meeting of the CATE Board, but said it was decided not to award moderations to students from any particular Board “as it is very difficult to quantify the advantage a student would get because individual literary skill comes into play here”.
Academics from the university, beg to differ.
“It must be recalled that DU colleges held entrance exams for English Hons in the first place because they did not trust the CBSE marking scheme for the subject. Now, when almost all colleges have joined in, CATE picks up a high-score question straight out of the CBSE syllabus, which puts CBSE students at a clear advantage. Various academics and parents of wards have called up the Vice-Chancellor on the issue. How can we talk of a level playing field in such a situation?” asked a DU professor.
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