Students who gave their II PUC exams in 2021, but repeated their Common Entrance Test (KCET) in 2022 staged a protest on August 1 over the ranking system followed by the Karnataka Examinations Authority (KEA). Hundreds of students and parents have continued to gather in front of the KEA office at Malleshwaram in Bengaluru demanding a uniform evaluation of KCET results. The students who had graduated in 2021 had reappeared for the 2022 KCET exam in hopes of a better rank. However, 25,000 students who reappeared for the exam in 2022, are now distraught as they found out their marks from II PUC have not been considered for their KCET rankings, resulting in very low rankings. Faced with the continuing protests, KEA has now postponed the document verification process which was set to begin on August 5.
KCET exam is a common entrance test conducted for students passing out of II PUC or Class 12 to secure a seat in professional courses like engineering, agriculture, veterinary and pharma. The rankings are calculated by taking into consideration 50% marks from their II PUC and 50% from marks scored in the KCET exam. The higher the rank, the better the chances of students securing a government seat in colleges. Students have also alleged that II PUC marks of only those enrolled with the Karnataka Board and wrote their board exams in 2021, have been excluded from the rankings. As a result of COVID-19, for the year 2021, KEA had not considered the 50% board marks for ranking in the KCET exam and had considered only the CET score.
“The problem is that there is no uniformity in the evaluation method. KEA has evaluated the 2021 batch in a different way and the 2022 batch in another. Any democratic organisation needs to function uniformly. Here, the basic rankings themselves are not uniform. They charge a fee for KCET and give a brochure, but the brochure has no clarity about rules for repeaters. When parents called them, they said that evaluation will be done the same way as it is done every year, that is, 50% of board marks along with 50% of KCET results will be considered for the ranking. They should have told us before that those marks are not valid (for 2021 batch). If they had, these many students' lives wouldn't have been ruined. Today, hundreds have come to protest, tomorrow thousands will come,” said Abhaya, a member of AIDSO.
The students also pointed out that the Class 12 grade marks (2021) of those enrolled with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) have been considered for KCET rankings. But they haven’t considered it for students enrolled with the Karnataka State Board. However, TNM spoke to a protesting parent, Bharathi, who said that her daughter studied through the CBSE board, but her Class 12 marks have not been considered. “They have considered CBSE marks only for a few students. My daughter secured more marks in KCET this year than last year, but her rank has been thrown off by more than 60,000,” she said.
KEA officials confirmed that there were 25,000 repeaters for KCET this year, a number that was never seen before. KCET sees an average of 1,500 repeaters in a year, but KEA realised the huge number this year only while analysing the results. How the number went unnoticed is surprising since students upload their documents and dates of qualifying II PU exam while registering for KCET. Protestors also said that the brochure given by KEA, titled “Information Bulletin - 1,” does not have clear instructions on the evaluation of students who have written their board exams the previous year.
Ratna Gowda, a parent, said “We as parents didn't ask for the exams to be cancelled, the KEA themselves did that. They gave them marks cards and many students received 90%. Some students dropped the KCET, because they wanted to do better. The brochure that they gave has instructions like shoes are not allowed. Why haven't they written that 2021 students are not allowed also? If they had informed us earlier, so many students wouldn't have re-written the exam. My child has secured 120, however, he has received a rank of 1,40,000, which college will give a seat to him?”
KEA’s Executive Director, Ramya S denied any responsibility of the KEA in the massive confusion which has posed a serious risk to the careers of 25,000 students. Ramya insisted that the government order issued in 2021, stating that board exams marks would not be considered for KCET was still in place. But at no time this year did KEA announce that the same order would be in place for students who passed in 2021 and would appear for KCET in 2022. It was only after the huge protest that KEA issued a note stating that the same order was in effect.
Ramya was combative when asked about the protesting students. “One would hope that someone who had scored 97% in board exams last year would score at least 70-80% in KCET. But they have scored only 30-40%. We even set a very simple paper and these protesting students say they have studied very hard for two years. We said repeaters were eligible to write the exam, but for them to assume that we would assess the paper (and allot rankings) in a particular way does not appear right to me,” she defended.
When asked why CBSE/ICSE students who had repeated the exams had their marks considered, Ramya said that they could not assess who was a repeater from the initial set of marks. “We have now sent a revised list with only KCET marks being considered for those who wrote their qualifying exams in 2021 and this list will be issued soon,” she remarked.
Sneha Ramesh, a guardian of one of the repeaters, said, “All they are saying is that these people (repeaters) are incapable, the state board students do not have calibre because they have not written exams. However, they have considered the marks for ICSE and CBSE students, and no one said anything about their calibre. The state students have not received their marks for free. Their Class 10 marks, I PU internal marks, and II PU internal marks all have been considered. KEA is not ready to accept it and all they say is state students do not have the calibre or honesty.”
The brochure says that any candidate who had obtained a seat in any discipline through KCET in any of the previous years and not surrendered the seat before the last date fixed for the final round of seat allotment for the respective disciplines will not be eligible for allotment of a seat to the same discipline during 2022. However, they are eligible to appear for KCET 2022 for allotment of seats in any other discipline. Furthermore, the seat selected during the previous year gets automatically cancelled, upon selection of a seat in a different discipline during this year. The executive director said that verification will be done to check if any such students have re-written the exam this year, but did not surrender their seats last year.
Following the announcement of the KCET results, a document verification process was scheduled for August 5. However, due to the agitation by students repeating KCET, the date has been postponed and a new date is yet to be announced by the KEA. The students and parents have planned on approaching the High Court if their grievances are not addressed by the KEA. Their demand is simple, either a uniform evaluation process be put in place or only KCET marks be considered for rankings for all freshers and repeaters.