Most states tick CBSE multiple choice option
Most states on Tuesday told the Union education ministry that the Central Board for Secondary Education’s (CBSE) Class 12 examinations should be conducted, picking a proposed method that involves a shorter duration for the tests, holding them at schools where students are enrolled, and switching to only multiple choice and short-answer questions.
A high-level meeting called by the Union ministry of education on Sunday to discuss the feasibility of conducting the exams remained inconclusive, even as officials said there was “broad consensus” that the test must be held for a limited number of subjects and with a shorter duration after the Covid-19 situation comes under control.
On Tuesday, only Delhi, Punjab and West Bengal opposed holding the examinations immediately, saying they should be conducted only after all teachers and students are vaccinated -- a difficult plan not just because of the current shortage of vaccines but also because many Class 12 students are under the age of 18 years, a segment for which there are currently no approved vaccines in the country.
The decision will apply not just to CBSE but likely to other boards as well, which will follow the model adopted by the country’s largest board.
During Sunday’s meeting, two options were presented to the states – first, a three-hour examination for 19 major subjects; second, 90-minute tests, with students having to appear only in one language and three elective subjects. At least a dozen states said on Tuesday that they preferred the second option to conduct the exams. Among them were Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Delhi and Punjab also preferred the second option, but said the exams should be conducted only after all teachers and students were vaccinated.
There were, however, differences on when the examinations should be held. Some flood- and extreme rainfall-prone states such as Bihar, Assam and Uttarakhand said they wanted the examinations to be held after the monsoon season, which typically ends by September.
“If the Centre and state governments work together, it would take 3 to 4 weeks to fully vaccinate teachers and students of Class 12. Following vaccination, the ministry can arrange for examination as per option B,” Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia wrote to the Union education ministry on Tuesday.
Punjab school education minister Vijay Inder Singla backed Sisodia’s suggestion and said the state preferred the second option. “All students appearing in Class 12 board exams and teachers, both government and private, should be vaccinated before the board exams are started,” he said.
West Bengal said it wanted the examinations to be cancelled. An official of the state education department said on condition of anonymity that the state government wanted an indefinite postponement in view of the pandemic.
CBSE has proposed to conduct exams between July and August, tentatively, and results may be announced in September, according to people aware of the developments. Around 1,400,000 students are scheduled to appear in CBSE Class 12 exams this year.
On Sunday, Pokhriyal said that an “informed” and “collaborative” decision will be taken on Class 12 exams at the earliest. During the meeting, he also discussed “how important Class 12 exams are to decide the future of students”. He said a decision on the matter will likely be taken by June 1.
As per officials in multiple states, there was a view that the shorter duration examinations for fewer subjects should be held in July before the onset of heavy rainfall and floods in the monsoon season.
The Uttarakhand government expressed its inability to conduct the examinations after mid-July and in August, when the state receives heavy rainfall. “If exams cannot be held in June end or July first week, then it should be postponed till September as during the peaking monsoon season, examinations in a hill state like ours won’t be suitable,” said Uttarakhand school education secretary R Meenakshi Sundaram.
The Bihar government, too, has raised the issue of floods, especially in the northern parts of the state in July-end and August. Bihar education minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary asked the Centre to avoid examinations during the monsoon. “The Centre should consider an online option,” he said. The Bihar board examinations were held in February and results were declared in March end, he added.
The Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Kerala governments want the CBSE examinations to be held with adequate time given to students to prepare. Kerala education minister V Sivankutty said the government preferred the second option and informed the Centre that apprehension of students regarding their higher studies should be addressed immediately. “We also want the second option,” said Jharkhand education secretary Rajesh Sharma. Tamil Nadu school education minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi told reporters that they preferred the second option as it would reduce the stress on students. Chhattisgarh education minister Prem Sai Singh Tekam wrote a letter to Pokhriyal and said that the Centre should hold CBSE examinations as early as possible.
Himachal Pradesh education secretary Rajeev Sharma wrote to the education ministry, saying the second option appeared feasible as it required a shorter window and would reduce the stress on students.
Adviser to Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor (L-G), RR Bhatnagar, who also holds the school education portfolio, said Class 12 exams of the J&K state board had already been conducted in Kashmir and two-third of them were completed in the Jammu region.
Chandigarh has opted for the shorter option, said director school education Rubinderjit Singh Brar.
The Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments informed the Centre that they also preferred the second option but the final decision depended on the ground situation of the pandemic. Andhra Pradesh is holding Class 10 examinations from June 7, even though Telangana has cancelled all exams and promoted all students enrolled for exams except those in Class 12, whose examination dates would be announced later, said state education minister Adimulapu Suresh.
Haryana education minister Kanwar Pal said the state will follow in letter and spirit the Centre’s direction and they, too, preferred the second option. He said if the Centre gave a green signal to hold the exams, the state education department would start the state board examinations from June 20.
However, the states that wanted the first option to be implemented were Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Madhya Pradesh school education minister Inder Singh Parmar said they wanted the first option as changing the examination system midway could create problems for the students. He added that the CBSE exam schedule should be decided after taking stock of the Covid-19 situation in different states. The minister said MP will take a final decision on conducting Class 12 exams of the MP board in the first week of June. Rajasthan education minister Govind Singh Dotasara said the state supported holding the Class 12 exams. “The GoI [Government of India] has given two options of which we have supported the existing format of holding the exam (3-hour paper). A change in pattern would not be comfortable for the students. The exam date should be decided only after assessing the Covid19 situation.”
Several school principals also called for the cancellation of exams. “If the government conducts exams by August-September, we fear that the pandemic might spread once again. Students who are sick with mild symptoms might conceal the fact and appear for the exam due to the fear of missing out on the year. Students can carry home the virus and endanger their family members,” said AK Jha, principal of Government Co-ed Sarvodaya Vidyalaya in Delhi’s Rohini.
Ameeta Mulla Wattal, principal of Springdales School, Pusa Road, said: “We need to come up with some alternative criteria since the pandemic continues to prevail. Students went through a lot of anxiety last year and the same is continuing this year as well. We can explore the possibility of delinking boards with college entrances.”
During the meeting on Sunday, two options proposed by CBSE for conducting Class 12 exams were discussed at length. In the first option, the examination for major subjects may be conducted at the “designated examination centres and in the existing format” like previous years, and for the minor subjects, “marks can be calculated as per the assessment scheme based on the performance in the major subjects”. The second option involves multiple changes, including conducting exams at schools where the students are enrolled, reducing the duration of examination, and switching to only multiple choice and short answer type questions.