Pitfalls of hasty decision

Uncertainty over Class XII final examinations due to deterioration in the COVID-19 situation has gripped the students and parents.
Pitfalls of hasty decision

Uncertainty over Class XII final examinations due to deterioration in the COVID-19 situation has gripped the students and parents. A hasty decision to cancel examinations without clarity on alternative means of assessment runs the risk of adding to their anxiety over future career goals. The Central Board of Secondary Examination (CBSE) has postponed the Class XII board examinations. In Assam, the Assam Higher Secondary Education Council (AHSEC) and the Board of Secondary Education, Assam (SEBA) authorities have postponed both Class XII and Class X final examinations. Holding examinations under prevailing pandemic situation is not advisable until COVID-19 infections are fully controlled and the Health and Family Welfare Department gives a go-ahead. Cancellation of Class XII examinations, without clarity on alternative assessment, is going to complicate admission in colleges. Colleges grant admission into various undergraduate courses on a merit basis judging the candidates on their performance in Class XII board examinations. For, technical courses like engineering and medical, the eligibility criteria for appearing in qualifying examinations is fixed based on marks obtained in Class XII board examinations. Assessment on basis of internal periodic examinations will deprive a fair opportunity to those students who could not do well in the periodic internal assessments but prepared well and have high chances of scoring good marks in the final offline sit-down board examinations. Disruptions in the career goals of their children may also cause anxiety among the parents.

They are equally worried about the health of their children. The educational authorities, the Centre, and State governments shouldn't push for offline examinations immediately as the second wave of COVID-19 infections is reportedly affecting more children than the first wave. Experts have also warned of a worse situation the third wave. The CBSE has cancelled the class X examinations and released the "objective criterion" for assessment of the students given the cancellation of their examinations. Even though assessment is primarily based on internal assessments and periodic tests conducted by the schools, the process is not going to be smooth as schools in many places across the country could not conduct all periodic/unit tests while many students could not appear in some of these tests because of the pandemic situation and were in containment zones or state, district-specific lockdown, travel restrictions. The CBSE decided that Class X students will be assessed out of a maximum of 100 marks, 20 marks will come from internal assessments, 10 marks will come from periodic/unit tests, 30 marks from half-yearly/mid-term examinations and 40 marks from pre-board examinations. Standardising the assessment based on the historical performance of schools in the previous three years board examinations is school-centric and certainly student-centric. Such standardisation will put some students of schools not performing well in past three years which is going to make the task of Results Committee constituted by the schools challenging. The SEBA has postponed the High School Leaving Certificate examinations as a large number of students will have to take admissions in colleges to pursue Higher Secondary courses as most schools have classes up to Class X and do not have higher secondary streams. Cancellation of HSLC examinations will complicate admission procedure in colleges if SEBA is also made to follow the CBSE principle of assessment based on internal assessment, periodic/unit tests. Likewise, cancellation of the Class XII examinations by the CBSE as well as ASHEC or other state councils is going to complicate the assessment process. Clamour for cancellation of Class X board examinations is growing and has been trending on social media networks which can be attributed to ferocity in the second wave across the country. Governments playing to the galleries will have irreversible consequences on the career goals of students. The situation calls for wider consultations with educationists, parents by the government instead of rushing to a decision. Education is a subject in the Concurrent List and the spirit of cooperative federalism requires the Central government to engage with the state governments to evolve a consensus so that unilateral and arbitrary decision does not affect career goals of students in any state or region adversely affected. Delay in clarity on the principle of holding various examinations and alternative assessment, in the event examinations are cancelled will only cause more anxiety and may even lead to serious mental health issues among some students. The Assam government has said that decision to hold the examinations would depend on the pandemic situation but both SEBA and ASHEC are ready to conduct them within 15 days notice after the situation improves and the Health Department grants permission. Transparency in the entire decision-making process is the keyword to prevent any student to suffer from mental anxiety over final year examinations and future career goals. Decisions must not be left to bureaucrats alone and governments holding wide-ranging consultations with educationists can help hammer out pragmatic solutions.

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