Saturday, February 24, 2018

Revert to merit system for judging

 In the 1990s, I was commissioned by the National Carnival Commission (NCC) to develop software for the computation of results for the major Carnival competitions (Calypso, King and Queen of Carnival, Band of the Year). In those days, the “merit system” was used to determine results. It was a far superior method to the current one, where high and low scores are discarded. It was error-prone when done by hand, but the software eliminated this problem.

In the years that I was involved, I had the responsibility of tabulating the results directly from the judges’ score sheets. The system was fast and accurate, with results available within five minutes of receiving the score sheets. I’m not sure exactly when or why the NCC stopped using the merit system, but I strongly recommend the organisation (and Pan Trinbago) revert to it to determine the results of the various competitions.

The merit system takes into consideration the fact that some judges are generous with their scores, while others are less so. However, they tend to be consistent in their generosity or stinginess. For example, for three contestants A, B and C, Judge 1 may award marks of 95, 92 and 88, while Judge 2 may award marks of 78, 80 and 73, respectively. Assuming there are five judges, the other three may award marks somewhere between these two.

In a system where you eliminate high and low scores, you may find that the scores of Judge 1 and Judge 2 are consistently eliminated. The end result is that they have little or no say in the final determination. But they may be very good judges and their relative placement of the contestants may be spot on. Yet their input has little or no bearing on the final result. Surely, this cannot be what we want. This is where the merit system comes in.

The system gives all judges equal say in the final results by nullifying the tendency of one judge to give high scores and another low scores. At the end of the competition, based on the scores awarded, each judge would have placed the contestants in a particular order. Then, all first-placed contestants get the same number of points (50, say). All second-placed contestants get 49 points, all third placed contestants get 48 points, and so on. These points are then tallied to determine the winners.

In the example above, the contestant (A) who Judge 1 placed first with 95 marks will get the same number of points (50) as the contestant (B) who Judge 2 placed first with 80 marks.

The system can be tweaked in terms of the number of points to award for first, second, third, and the other places. Should it be 100 for first, 90 for second, 85 for third? This is a minor detail which does not affect the principle of the method. The merit system is not perfect, but I submit it has many advantages over the current system and should be used for future Carnival competitions, as was done in earlier years.

Noel Kalicharan

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