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In March 2020, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) announced the postponement of the board examinations for Class XII and Class X (only in North-East Delhi) due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. More than three months later, it is still uncertain whether the examinations will be postponed or cancelled.
The Supreme Court has adjourned hearing on the CBSE Board Examination scrapping matter to June 25. About 1.2 million students appeared for the CBSE Class XII examinations in February and March.
Though it was widely anticipated that the human resource development ministry (MHRD) would come to a consensus by the end of May, the matter has been delayed. This has caused unnecessary delays for students seeking admission to higher education institutes.
Officials told Moneycontrol that neither the ministry nor the board anticipated that the COVID-19 pandemic would continue even in July. Till now, India has reported 456,183 COVID-19 cases with 14,476 deaths.
An immediate decision is necessary to preserve the academic future and career prospects of students. Another postponement in conducting the examinations would only prove costly. With no clarity in sight on when India will seek a COVID-19 peak, the better option would be to cancel the examinations.
CBSE’s counterpart Council for Indian School Certification Examinations (CISCE) has taken a decision to let students choose. For the ICSE, ISC exams. Here, students have been given an option--either write the examinations for missed subjects in July 2020 or be given a grade, based on their pre-board performance in those subjects.
Considering that several higher education institutions have begun the admission process for undergraduate programmes, it is crucial that CBSE students get their marksheets on time.
Delhi University (DU), for instance, has already opened online admissions for the undergraduate courses. Those awaiting results have to choose the ‘results awaited’ option while applying. But what happens in case the CBSE Class XII examinations are further delayed?
DU may not be able to wait indefinitely till the results are announced, since the academic calender will then get delayed. Students of individual state boards stand to benefit since most results have already been declared.
Health risks would make it unviable to hold board examinations in July 2020. Even for CISCE, those opting to write exams are taking a high risk.
Say CBSE were to conduct examinations as per the original schedule between July 1-15, 2020. Who will be responsible if a student, invigilator or school staff test COVID-19 positive? Other students would have to be quarantined and the exam centre would have to be shut for cleaning. These students would then end by missing the exams, again.
Now what if the CBSE board examinations were postponed to October or November? The pandemic situation could have improved by then. But again, if the COVID-19 peak isn’t reached by then, another round of uncertainty would kick in for students.
This would mean that these CBSE students would have to basically miss one year because no higher education institute would be ready to accept students so late. International education aspirants would also have missed out on the opportunity for applying for programmes in US and Europe by then.
A few institutes in places like New Zealand and Singapore have accepted Indian students on ‘provisional’ basis for undergraduate degree courses. This is on the condition that students submit their board exam marksheets by October end 2020. Any delay in submission would mean that the admission is automatically cancelled by the concerned institutes.
HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank had earlier said in June that options like online examinations may also need to be considered by the concerned educational institutions for final exams. However, but happens to students who don’t have laptops/tablets to write exams? And what happens in case there is a power outage causing internet connectivity issues in remote areas of the country? And how will cheating be curbed during the exam?
Considering these scenarios, board exam cancellation seems to be the best option for CBSE right now. What will be keenly watched is the process of marking students for the pending subjects.
A swift decision by the board to cancel examinations for the remaining subjects would save 2020 academic year from going waste for Indian students.