“We wish to live, why do you consider exams important than our lives,” the students’ desperate tweets demanding cancellation of exams no doubt display their disturbed mental state. The prolonged academic year, inefficient online classes and the restrictions on one-on-one interaction with peers have left students in deep distress.
Amid the chaos of uncontrollable virus spread and deaths in the country, the most unfortunate decision by the government is to conduct offline exam for Class XII students. Though students have been campaigning strongly on Twitter and Change.org for cancellation of exams, the authorities have turned a blind eye towards the appeal. Lakhs of children and parents have come together to make their voices heard and the clarity of thoughts of students while pointing out how the physical exams can harm them cannot be ignored.
However, a PIL has been filed in the apex court on behalf of the students seeking direction for the government to abstain from conducting the exam.
The petition states that the situation is unsafe for writing exams at external centres and also points towards the precedent where the court had directed cancellation of exams last year when the active cases were much lower.
“How can you ensure the idealistic methods of safety protocols in the conduct of exams,” asks Adv Mamta Sharma, the petitioner while being hopeful that the SC will understand the students’ plight. “What about the travelling time to the exam centres and back? Especially since the children were indoors for about a year and a half their immunity will also be low now, won’t that put them on high risk,” anxious parents question.
The PIL is posted for hearing on May 31. CBSE will declare the exam dates on June 1. The indications from authorities suggest that the exams will be conducted for sure claiming to keep the health, safety and academic welfare of students on highest priority. “If they knew how to take care of the safety of people, why didn’t they stop the second wave that obviously resulted from the elections,” the desperate parents and students respond unanimously.
When the Cambridge board, International Baccalaureate programme, CGBSE etc have already cancelled exams, the CBSE and ICSE students feel disappointed at their predicament.
The key causes for concern among parents and students are:
- Exam centres can be possible hotspots triggering an early third wave
- Lack of proper infrastructure to hold offline exams during the pandemic
- Inefficient classes and portions not fully covered
- SC has taken the matter for urgent hearing considering the severity of the situation
- Admission to foreign universities will be denied with delayed results
- Students face discrimination as Class X exams have been cancelled
- Several state boards proceeding with alternative assessment causes unfair treatment
- Other countries have cancelled exams
- Children who have been infected or lost family members may not write exams
- No discussions held with students or parents
- Mental health of students is deteriorating
- Vaccinations still not planned for students
- Doctors and educationists strongly advise against offline exams
- Prominent leaders and organisations support students
- Lives more important than exams
- Uniform pattern essential for evaluation
The government had held discussions with state officials about the possibilities of conducting exams offline and has shortlisted two options without consulting student representatives.
The petition in Change.org has gained the support of more than 6 lakh people. Many prominent leaders like Dr Shashi Tharoor, Manish Sisodia, Akhilesh Yadav and organisations including NSUI, IWPA, IMC, AISEC have supported the students’ cause.
As per reports, state boards have already decided to cancel exams and provide home exams or internal assessment procedure to their candidates. The proposed new pattern of exam is not being much favoured as fresh preparations are required after being in the same class for more than a year. All this will leave CBSE students in a soup where they will lag behind in performance while having to focus on Covid protocol more than on the exam itself.
“At this point of time it’s problematic to take a decision on offline exams as we might not be able to contain this kind of infection. If the test positivity rate comes down to 5, then maybe we can think about that. Beyond that we need to initiate vaccinations for under 18 age group. But it’s going to take time as we have to yet finish inoculating other age groups. It’s definitely better to not conduct physical exams till the test positivity comes down, else opt for an alternative method of assessment,” said Dr Sulphi Noohu, Central Committee Member, IMA.
In any case, results can be declared using internal assessment method or by calculating the average marks of previous year’s performances of the students without any harm to anyone. Assignments or project work can also be used for evaluation. “We are not afraid of exams but do not wish to get infected by going to exam centres. We have a right to live,” according to a student.
Around 300 students and parents have also written to the Chief Justice of India citing urgent resolution of the issue. Another letter by around 8,000 parents have been sent to CJI separately for redressal of the matter. “Be optimistic, may be the government will resolve it in your favour” is what was verbally conveyed to the petitioner.
When most countries have cancelled exams in favour of their students, India’s stubbornness to hold exams is appalling. The proposed dates for exams from July to August, which means the result declaration after a month will delay and shorten the next academic year. Candidates who eye foreign universities for higher education would be denied admission.
The need of the hour is to ensure safety and health of children as no exam can be more important than their lives.
(The author is Chairperson CSA, Director TGL, Senior Director FWO, Editor Intl Journal)