The more things change, the more they remain the same for the Class X board in Assam. It probably has something to do with the fact that the Tarun Gogoi-led previous government received as many as three reports in 2012-2013 on reforming the Board of Secondary Education, Assam (SEBA), but practically sat over all three. The panels led by Srith Baruah, Dilip Kr Baruah, Alak Kr Buragohain and KM Bujarbaruah made useful recommendations, which could have made student organizations, educationists and the government brainstorm over the issue. The AASU agitated for years to prod Dispur to overhaul SEBA; filly, the SEBA came out with a notification in July last year detailing what steps it took to implement the Srith Baruah review-cum-reform panel report. Basically, the SEBA contended that reforming its recruitment procedure and administrative functioning will require existing laws to be amended, new laws to be ected, and improvement in fund position. Recommendations on grading, curriculum and an anti-malpractices law must await detailed discussions with the government. That being the bottomline, there was scope only for some minor (or cosmetic?) modifications of the SEBA examition process. One key recommendation was to end the policy of centrally administering SEBA activities, considering the rising numbers of SEBA-affiliated schools, examinees and examition centers over the years. In this connection, the Srith Baruah panel had suggested that five regiol centers could be set up at Silchar, Kokrajhar, Koliabor, Lakhimpur and Sivasagar, which would all coordite with SEBA headquarters via extensive use of information and communication technology (ICT). The IT section should be headed by a Systems Alyst, computer literacy should be made mandatory for all SEBA employees, online databases of schools and students must be maintained, the panel felt. It also noted that the IT Cell of SEBA, with one computer programmer and 4/5 data entry operators, seemed ‘somewhat sidelined’, and must be strengthened.
In its notification, the SEBA clarified that its IT Cell is headed by a deputy secretary — but with reports of several HSLC examinees losing a valuable year for not getting admit cards this time too, it is obvious the SEBA authority is still to pull up its socks. The Srith Baruah panel made several recommendations to end examition malpractices, and to be fair, SEBA has instituted quite a few reforms to make the holding of HSLC/AHM exams cleaner. For the last couple of years, it has been weeding out Class IX failed students through online registration, which has margilly brought down the number of board fil examinees. This year, it has put examition centers under CCTV camera surveillance for the first time, along with imposition of prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC. Each of the 855 SEBA examition centers would be filing reports online every day with details like number of examinees present and absent (to check impersotion) and those expelled for unfair means. Deputy commissioners have been empowered to cancel examitions at any center if irregularities are found, with superintendents of police to be kept in the loop. The SEBA is introducing digital evaluation for the first time on pilot project basis for General Mathematics answer scripts. Sadly, it is the General Mathematics paper that has tripped up SEBA on the second day of examition, with Social Science and Assamese (MIL) papers handed out instead among examinees in Hojai and Baksa districts. This in effect means leakage of these two question papers, though Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma would like to please otherwise. Granted that the concerned teachers idvertently opened the wrong sealed packet, but did they not know they should be distributing the General Mathematics paper on Monday? If they could not correct their error before reaching exam hall, it speaks volumes of how much they lack in care and alertness. Many examinees had to make do with photostat copies of General Mathematics paper after the goof-up was discovered, after being made to wait for over an hour. It now turns out that the Bodo language version of General Mathematics paper was flawed, confusing examinees no end. How sincere the Education department and SEBA authority are in implementing reforms remain to be seen, but there is little point tom-tomming new initiatives if their employees can’t even get the basics right.