Exams in limbo

The inordinate delay in taking a call on conducting CBSE Class 12 exams amid the Covid pandemic has kept students, their parents and teachers on tenterhooks for the past over two months. Sunday’s meeting between Union ministers and the education ministers and secretaries of several states and union territories remained inconclusive. The very fact that such high-level meetings are being held as late as May-end sums up the state of affairs. The Centre has now sought detailed suggestions from the states and announced that an ‘informed, collaborative’ decision will be taken by June 1.

From the outset, there has been no sense of urgency on this critical matter that impacts the future of lakhs of students. The Covid-induced disruptions to the academic calendar last year should have prompted the authorities to assess various examination options — online as well as offline — well in advance and frame a contingency plan this time. In 2020, the CBSE Class 12 exams had started in February-end, but the outbreak of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown brought the process to a halt. Though the first half of July was later fixed for holding the pending exams, these were eventually cancelled. The evaluation was done largely on the basis of the exams in which the students had appeared.

It’s no saving grace that the Centre is seeking suggestions from the states on the way forward. This exercise should have been carried out in late March or early April when it became evident that the second wave was upon us. The Delhi and Kerala governments are keen that students should be vaccinated before the exams. This is an impractical proposal for at least two reasons: no clearance yet to vaccines for under-18s; and overall acute shortage of the shots. In any case, making students throng vaccination centres when they should be preparing for the exams will only lead to utter chaos. The safety of teachers and examinees is undoubtedly a major consideration. A relatively low-risk option could be to confine them to their own campuses rather than forcing them to travel to other exam centres. The Centre must decide at the earliest.

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