Cancellation of the Madhyamik and H.S (+ 2) examinations by TBSE is the best resort.

Sanjoy Roy.

June 8, 2021, 13:07:57   

It is known to all that due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) had announced the cancellation of class 12 exams following a crucial meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the fate of Class 12 board exams on 1st June, 2021 while the cancellation of Class 10 examinations was announced by central government much earlier. A large section of students and parents had been demanding the cancellation of class 12 board examinations and repercussions known from various sources indicate that majority stakeholders are happy over the decisions of central government and the CBSE. Before that a lot of deliberations had taken place and feedback had been obtained from various state governments. The CBSE also proposed two options: conducting regular exams for 19 major subjects at notified centres or conducting shorter duration examinations at respective schools where students are enrolled. A majority of states had been found in favour of the second option while some states wanted a mix of both options and a very few states suggested for 'non-examination route'. A broad consensus was arrived at the meeting held on 23rd May 2021, chaired by Union Education Minister with the states and union territories about conduct of the examinations. But finally it was decided that the CBSE exams for class 12 would be cancelled. 

As per the notification issued by the CBSE, "Class-XII assessment will be made as per well-defined objective criteria in a time bound manner." The CBSE has further informed that if any student is not satisfied with the marks allotted to him or her, he or she would be given the option of appearing in the examinations when the circumstances will be favourable for conducting the examinations. Accordingly many states have followed the suit and cancelled board examinations in line with the central government's decision. However, students of some states continue to reel under anxiety as they await the final decision by their respective boards. Some of the states where decisions are pending include Tamilnadu, Andrapradesh, Assam, Jharkhand and Tripura as well. It may be mentioned that Bihar has conducted class 10 and 12 examinations in February 2021 while class 10 and 12 examinations in Kerala were held in May 2021.  West Bengal is the latest state to cancel the board examinations.

According to the Prime Minister, the decision on the Class 12 CBSE board examinations was cancelled in the interest of students due to the uncertain situation created due to the pandemic. The PM also reiterated in his tweet that 'after extensive consultations, we have taken a decision that is student-friendly, one that safeguards the health as well as future of our youth'. He stated that coronavirus has affected the academic calendar and the issue of board examinations has been causing immense anxieties among students, parents and teachers, which must be put to an end. The message of PM is very clear and loud. The health and safety of students are of paramount importance and there should not be any compromise on this aspect. In today's time, such examinations cannot be the reason to put the youth at risk. Students should not be forced to appear for examinations in such a stressful situation. Having known the decision of central government and the CBSE, CICSE and various state boards across the country have cancelled the examinations.  Simultaneously the Supreme Court of India observed that it was happy with the central government's decision to cancel the Central Board of Secondary Examination (CBSE) Class 12 board examinations 2021 and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) Class 12 board examinations 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the other hand, the decision in respect of board examinations for  Madhyamik (class 10) and H.S(+2) for the year 2021 in Tripura is  yet to be known. It is learnt that a high level meeting is scheduled on 14th June 2021 regarding the same and the opinions of parents have been sought by Government of Tripura. But given the current surge  of 2nd wave covid-19 in Tripura,  any decision to conduct examinations whether on short format or on reduced time table would be very difficult  from the points of the safety , health and  larger interests of the students’ and other stakeholders.  There is no hard and fast rule that the board examinations for class 10 and class 12 under Tripura Board of Secondary Education (TBSE) should be cancelled or postponed following the decision of CBSE and central government. It totally depends on the covid situation of respective state, number of patients getting infected daily etc. and whether the situation can be managed or not. Available information about covid-19 patients in Tripura shows that the number of patients detected in Tripura was 269 from 6th April 2021 to 13th April 2021 but since May the number of covid patients was creeping with the positivity rate moving around  5 per cent down from 7 per cent in May 2021. Many parents, students and some political parties and ex- Education Minister of Tripura, have asked for the cancellation of the examinations keeping in view the safety and health of students. Although the actual feedback on the nature of disease and its likely impact in Tripura can be best given by the medical experts and whether the examinations under such conditions should be held or not, can be best explained by the medical experts, the rising number of covid patients in the state is an alarming condition for the conduct of examinations. Conducting examinations of class 10 and class 12 would not only involve the students, parents , teachers and  general administration but it would also seek services of transport sector, police and other people as a result  chances of the spread of virus would undoubtedly go up. Thereafter, it would involve the evaluation of answer-scripts and declaration of results etc requiring the services of a number of teachers and others establishing the whole work a cumbersome process during the covid threats looming large across the state. The conduct of the examinations only in short format and restricted to major subjects does not reduce the risk of super spreaders, it only eases the cost and workload due to covid. Now it is known to us that Covid spreads via aerosol and it impacts indoors as well. Thus any exam more than 15 minutes even at 6 feet distance may be susceptible to huge covid risk. Even if the board takes the risk, the examination cannot be fair or equitable as neither preparation nor circumstances are fair for examinations. Also these exams would give no new information about student’s capability which may be gauged from the results of each student in past three-four year examinations barring few exceptions. 

Given the present situation it may be mentioned that decision of the TBSE in respect of cancellation of Madhyamik examination would not be difficult and the government may easily come to a decision regarding the cancellation of class 10 examinations of TBSE as the assessment criteria for class 10 examinations are already notified by the CBSE. What TBSE needs to do is coming to a decision whether it would go by the parameters suggested by CBSE or would modify the parameters keeping in view the local interests or not, so as to avoid the excess inflation of marks and attain normalization of marks as the total assessment of students would depend on the active roles of respective schools, school leader and the teachers as a whole. Besides conduct of 10th examination is more mammoth exercise than class 12 examinations as  Madhyamik examination requires the co-operation of more people being more students appearing the class 10 examinations than the number of students appearing in class 12. Even the National Education Policy 2020 mentions to eliminate the 'high stake aspects of board examinations'  on paras 4.38 etc  clearly and emphasized on common entrance test for admission to the higher education institutions meaning education to higher education and professional courses are not going to be solely pegged on marks that students got in CBSE or state boards. 

Conversely, the importance of the class 12 is undoubtedly hefty determining the future career of students.   According to an affidavit submitted by Maharashtra Government in Bombay High Court ‘unlike the 10th standard, after 12th standard the path of the students' overall career is decided and the students of Class 12 are "more matured, independent, socially aware and bodily and mentally fit" than those in Class 10. Affidavit also said "it was thought fit that 12th board examinations were a relatively more important milestone in the education of students as their future careers depend upon the same as compared to the 10th standard examination. Many industry experts opine that cancelling the class 12 board exams is not a good idea. Class 12 board exam results have been a very significant arsenal in the entire admission and career scenario but over the years one has seen its importance dwindled.  Many suggest that the class 12 exams are crucial for judging the students' performance who wishes to apply for various entrance exams and evaluating them only on the basis of internal assessments etc would not do justice to some students. Many suggest that the exam can be postponed for few months until the COVID situation improves in the country Thus the decision on holding or cancelling Class 12 is very difficult and it is witnessed that learned academics, teachers, guardians and policy makers are divided in their opinions. But a significant breakthrough could be made once the decision is taken at a meeting chaired by PM Modi. Given the present pandemic condition in state which is yet not showing significant sign of speedy recovery, the government of Tripura may also consider the option of cancelling the class 12 exams safely and resolve the long standing the stalemate and anxieties of students and parents and teachers without much loss of time and rather the government may ask the TBSE to formulate the criteria for the assessment of students. TBSE would be at liberty to choose the objective criteria for assessment of marks. 

Therefore the focus should be shifted  to 'non-examination route' and it should emphasize on evaluation and assessment process   and how marks would be awarded to students keeping in view the future prospects of students , merit of each student, performance of the schools over the two or three years in the board , performance of respective students in previous board examinations, performance of students in various assessment tests conducted by the respective schools, mid-term examinations or performance of students in class 11th standards and internal assessment of students etc. To this end, formation of ‘result committee’ in respect of every school etc is the need of the hour along with screening committee and moderation committee for the schools in each block / sub-division etc. As the quality of schools varies across the state due to location of schools, availability of teachers, infrastructure , diversity in the composition of students, affordability of parents or guardians and attitude of guardians or parents , government should give a green signal to the Board indicating its consent regarding the cancellation of class 10 and class 12 examinations as any delay would likely to hinder the admission process of students in various colleges and universities as many other states have already come to a decision . With a view to increasing the efficacy of the board and  preserving  the academic standards and sanctity of board , the objective criteria need to be exhaustive having relevance and symmetry with  its earlier academic results  for the last two or three  years  and local conditions best suited to the students’ interests. The board should appoint a local expert committee with representatives from various subjects with such persons familiar with the process or wait till the submission of report by expert committee of CBSE constituted in this regard. The local expert committee needs to spell out the ways of assessment and evaluation process and set the parameters assigning specific weight in respect of each parameter so that the principles of reliability, fairness, flexibility and validity of results do not suffer and no student feels him or her deprived, or awarded too much marks than deserved by students and maintain a parity of marks among the students of similar merits studying in different schools.  Parity should exist with the results of other boards so that the students seeking admission in universities and institutions situated other than in Tripura do not lag behind. Some boundary lines or conditions as well as some flexibility need to be thrust upon the schools so that no school runs over-enthusiastic and becomes extra cautious or niggard while evaluating the students opposed to its overall performances over the last two or three years.

In fine it may be mentioned that there is hardly any time and choice left for the government or the TBSE to harp on and  decide about the conduct of examinations as the fate of majority of students are being determined through 'non –examination route' across the country  and accordingly the mindset of students has already swung away from appearing the examinations and any decision in  respect of conducting  both examinations  would  pose an extra mental and psychological pressures on students’ future career and results and it may prove abortive as some students might be concentrating for various entrance tests and  such similar examinations during this period. Thus cancellation of examinations should be best resort and fait accompli. Formulation of objective criteria should be next course of action for the TBSE. The whole exercise needs to be accomplished with a high degree of care, professionalism and consistency for which the state government and  TBSE should sit with some  headmasters of the schools across the state spread over different districts and sub-divisions immediately and draw an action plan the earliest possible and set the principles of evaluation process focusing on reliability, fairness , flexibility and validity and clarify the parameters and assign weight in respect of each parameter exhaustively and normalize the marks based on scores obtained by each students in different tests or assessments and examinations .  This is really a big challenge for the TBSE during pandemic conditions but it is also un-denying fact that the every school leader and teachers should come forward to accomplish the task and make sure that every student and parent would feel confident and repose faiths on the board regarding the accuracy and the fairness of the results. 


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