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The examination dilemma

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has sounded an alert that the second wave of COVID-19 is spreading at a faster pace compared to last year and next four weeks will remain critical.

examination

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  8 April 2021 2:16 AM GMT

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has sounded an alert that the second wave of COVID-19 is spreading at a faster pace compared to last year and next four weeks will remain critical. This has left candidates of Class X and XII final examinations as well as their parents worried as the board examinations are scheduled to start in the first week of May after the ongoing election process in five states is over. A section of students and parents have requested the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) cancellation of the examinations in the wake of worsening pandemic situation while another section has urged the authorities not to postpone or cancel examinations. The Hashtag 'cancelboardexams2021' and similar hashtags seeking cancellation of board examination are trending on social networking site Twitter. Cancellation of examination is not a pragmatic idea as it will affect the careers of students and will also have adverse impact on their mental health. Authorities taking extra precautions against COVID-19 and running awareness drive on COVID-19 appropriate behaviour will generate confidence among the students and parents that they too are equal stakeholders in the fight against the second wave of the pandemic across the country. It is a matter of serious concern that vested forces have spread rumour by circulating old CBSE circular of postponing Board examinations during the peak last year. Such anti-social elements must be brought to book and meted out punishment for playing with the academic careers of students and misleading the parents. The country has learnt pragmatic lessons on COVID management and built knowledge as to how to keep the educational institutions, examination venue safe from virus infection. The CBSE and the state boards are capable of holding offline examinations in the prevailing pandemic situation by taking all precautionary measures to keep the candidates safe from infection. Successful conduct of the NEET examinations in the peak of pandemic last year demonstrated such capability which should allay apprehension of student and parents. Online examination is not an alternative to offline examination due to poor internet access in rural areas in states like Assam. Any idea of mixed modes of offline and online for board examinations does not worth experimenting as it cannot ensure level playing field and may put the offline candidates at disadvantageous position against the candidates appearing from home in online mode. The CBSE rationalized the syllabus for board examinations by reducing the course load by 30 per cent in view of disruption in classes last year on account of pandemic situation. Isolated cases of new infection in some educational institutions can be attributed to negligence on the part of the authorities of the institution concerned and the students in adhering to the COVID-appropriate behaviour. Dropping the mask, not following hand washing or sanitising norms, relaxation of COVID norms in canteens of educational institutions or eateries in the vicinity of campuses are some of the reasons that explain the rise in new active case load. The Delhi High Court on Wednesday ruled that wearing of mask in a vehicle is compulsory even when driving alone. The court in its judgment stated that masks are like 'Surksha Kavach' (protective shield) and its use has saved millions of lives. The Delhi High Court directive should put to end the debate if masks are required or not in Assam as new cases are still much less as compared to states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi, Kerala, Gujarat. Continuing with the COVID-appropriate behaviour is the new normal till country is declared to be safe from COVID-19 infection. The COVID-19 situation in Delhi worsened with over 5100 new cases recorded on a single-day. Night curfew from 10 pm and 5 pm has been enforced in the national capital till April 30 following the sudden surge in new cases in a bid to contain the infections. In Assam, extra precautions should be ensured by authorities to keep upcoming Rongali Bihu celebrations safe from COVID-19 infection. Health authorities roping in Bihu committees to ensure mandatory mask wearing, temperature screening at the festival venues will prevent spread of the virus. Stages should be built in such a way that performances are visible from distance and do not require crowding to get clearer view from a close distance. Seating arrangements isolated by barricades for fixed number of audiences will ensure maintenance of the physical distances. Entry of people outside the seating arena should be allowed only when COVID-appropriate behaviour is ensured. Preventing the Rongali Bihu gatherings becoming spreader of COVID-19 infection is also critical to building the confidence among the candidates of board examinations and their parents. Scaling up the vaccination drive and ramping up COVID-19 testing in the state is also essential to boost the confidence of the people in measures adopted by the authorities for building resilience against the pandemic.

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