With the declaration of the cancellation of the class 12 board examinations in the midst of a declining second wave of the pandemic to ensure the primacy of the safety of the students, the stakeholders are absolutely baffled in deciding the trade-off between both the alternatives culminating in a slew of repercussions shrouded in uncertainty and oblivion.
CBSE had initially postponed class 12th exams, eventually canceling them.
“I’m not quite sure about the outcome of cancellation of Board exams. Since we are never given a true picture of the status of this pandemic, it looks to be a ploy to gain some political mileage and appeasement of a certain section of the population,” this is the extent of uncertainty expressed by high school economics teacher of Chandannagar, West Bengal, Mrs. Sudeshna Sanchety. In such a context, the increasing vagueness and anxiety of the grave situation are totally justified.
Before we delve deeper into the nuances of the cancellation of the boards, let us ponder on the myriad perspectives through which the pre-eminence of the boards is reiterated throughout the lives of the young teens and the sheer relevance it holds in the academic career of the students under the current education system. So, how do we perceive boards and what does it entail for the students? Why is it that since the earliest days of our secondary school, we are hammered into the very mindset of the “final examinations” with the looming board examinations being an end in itself?
Is it actually justified to accrue the merit of 14 years of school education merely to a single set of examinations at the end of school life? If so, do the values of consistency, hard work, determination, and sacrifice lose their absolute relevance in the preceding years of their education? Is the “marks” obtained in a single pattern of papers viable enough to be applied for determining the future course of life for the young minds, that too in a situation where different boards have different paper patterns, marking schemes, and academic criteria lending no semblance of uniformity in an “ought-to-be supreme evaluation of the boards”?
Considering the inherent hollowness and the inflated exaggeration of one objective academic threshold, the undue rhetoric of the boards have been, to a great extent, wrongly internalized by the entire student fraternity who rely on it as the sole basis for deciding the future courses and seeking admission to their much-sought-after dream colleges. In such a status quo being maintained, one can hardly but shudder at the gnawing experience that the prospective students of the batch of 2021-22 must have been going through amidst the ripples of a surging pandemic, leaving them more frustrated, perplexed, and indecisive about the next steps to be undertaken.
With the weight that board exams command in Indian society and higher education, their cancelation has led to many students confused about their future.
Even if the pertinent line of argument runs behind the decision that the safety and health of the students have been given precedence, the issue arises of a just and transparent alternative assessment scheme for the students about which are still left lurking in the darkness, even after almost a week post the crucial decision. This has taken a detrimental toll on the health of the students, causing further stress, anxiety, and trauma in an already tumulted scenario where the prospect of college admissions seems very vague and far-fetched.
Irabati De, of the Commerce stream from St Joseph’s Convent, Chandannagar flags her concern saying, “cancellation of Boards is not the right decision for the students. This will lead to complications in the admission of the students to colleges. The allotment of grades isn’t going to be fair and the evaluation of marks is going to be through a partly transparent system which is about to affect the careers of most students not having the backup for competitive examinations and for the ones who could’ve secured a better position in the general system of Board Examinations.”
The option of compartmental improvement examinations that the board has given if the students are not satisfied might actually prove to be an arrow aiming at the horizon because it might not serve its very purpose of college admissions, which will most likely be completed in that duration.
Moreover, another disparity that plagues this crumbling system is the different stakes and the decisions taken by the individual states relating to the conduct of board examinations. Presently, only 10 states have canceled the class 12 boards while in other states, the decision is either pending or the exams have been postponed.
Such a half-hearted and incoherent approach towards public examinations simply aggravates the inherent malice in our education system where students are mere pawns of the political ideologies and factional rivalries, staking their future and their dreams. This partial conduct of examinations in some states will further delay the declaration of the results, hence the college admission process, further undulating the already disjoint academic calendar.
However, a section of students who have applied for foreign universities is relieved as they would be able to secure their seats by the provision of the mark sheets within the stipulated period and be present on campus by August. Holding of the postponed boards and hence, further delay in the publication of results beyond the deadline would have cost the students their provisional admission in the prestigious universities abroad.
But Indian universities are still struggling over the plausible alternatives to this conundrum. Proposals for the conduct of personal interviews online have been suggested to determine the aptitude of the students before granting admission. Entrance tests would not be an equitable option considering the huge digital divide and poor internet connectivity across regions, thereby alienating marginalized sections.
Sudithi Bhattacharya, of ISC board from Naihati, West Bengal utters in desperation, “cancellation of exams is clearly and absolutely not justified. Well, whether it is mixed emotions or future expectations doesn’t even matter at this point because the thing which really mattered has been denied! Students remain on the cliffhanger“.
Thus, this imbroglio of academic pursuits, political apathy, and health emergency has inherently exposed the fault-lines of our traditional education system that stakes the future of its generation through its emphasis on rote learning, reliance on a single set of examinations without testing the analyzing and applicability of the knowledge obtained. In the current pandemic situation, the vagueness and lack of transparency of an alternative assessment scheme have put the uniformity and acceptability of boards to question.
Overhauling of the education sector, with a continuous assessment on the consistent performance of the students over the years, with a revocation of the existing differences in the paper pattern to test the critical thinking abilities of the candidates is the need of the hour. Because obviously, a decade from now, all of us would like to work with capable men of grit and wisdom, and not mere robots, rambling down their theories in their own fantasy!