COVID: With No Clarity from CBSE, CISCE, Schools Fret Over Boards 

Both CBSE and CISCE refused to comment on the possibility of conducting exams during the second wave. 

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Amid massive uproar over the conduct of board exams as India records its second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, an official at the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) said that the decision to conduct physical exams lies not in their hands, but also depends on directives from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and other ministries.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the official said that the board is aware of all situation in the country and has, for the time being, increased the numbers of exam centres to allay fears among students.

“It all depends on the final call taken by the Home Ministry, state governments and other ministries. We have scheduled examinations, but they are the people who allow. The SDMA & NDMA are in hold of statistics and depending on their opinion, the board will form its own plan.”
CBSE Official

When asked whether the board is planning to conduct the exams, the official said at the moment, it is difficult to provide any definite answer. CBSE’s Controller of Examination Sanyam Bhardwaj, too, said that he doesn’t want to “comment on the matter.”

According to the schedule, both CBSE Class 10 and 12 board exams are slated to begin on 4 May 2021.

Schools Left With Big Questions

In response to a petition signed by over one lakh students, asking boards to either cancel or conduct exams online, CBSE had on 8 April, said that measures were being taken to ensure the safety of students, reported news agency PTI.

“Adequate arrangements are being made to ensure the students are safe and all COVID protocols are followed. The number of exam centres has been increased by 40-50 percent to ensure social distancing. The staff at exam centres is being sensitised to ensure all guidelines are followed,” an official had told PTI.

However, with schools in several states shut, and barely three weeks to go for exams, principals have been worried. Ameeta Mulla Wattal, Principal of Springdales School in Delhi’s Pusa Road says there are three major concerns.

  • Since multiple media reports have pointed out that the second wave has also been affecting children and younger age groups, and is more virulent, a credible health expert needs to clearly say there that if a masked symptomatic student is sitting in a non-air-conditioned hall of 8 students, she wouldn’t pass it on to others.
  • Schools need greater clarity on how exams will be conducted. “Will all question and answer papers, seats have to be sanitised?”

When asked about the conduct of exams itself, Wattal said that “CBSE should look at exams as an evolving issue, more than a fixed issue,” as it will bring a certain amount of calm and trust among students and their parents.

Alka Kapur, Principal of Modern Public School said that if exams for Class 10 are based on assessment, then half the burden would be reduced and the board can focus on Class 12. Since cancelling Class 12 exams may not be practical, she said that the situation is “extremely fluid” and that the board may have to reconsider its schedule.

Mallika Preman, Principal of Tagore International School, East of Kailash feels that while Class 10 results could be based on internal assessment, the problem lies with Class 12, for whom college admissions depend on results. “How do we conduct and when do we conduct, that is the question,” she said.

Uncertainty Looms Over ICSE, ISC Exams

The situation isn’t any better in schools affiliated to the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations, which is slated to conduct Class 10 ICSE and Class 12 ISC exams from 4 May.

When asked about whether the board is planning to postpone exams in the wake of rising cases, Gerry Arathoon, the Chief Executive and Secretary at CISCE, said “no statement can be given right now.”

Earlier on 8 April, Arathoon had told PTI that “exams will remain the same.”

The principal of a school affiliated to CISCE, requesting anonymity, said that so far as they are aware, the boards are happening as scheduled. The principal said that schools would definitely want some clarity on how to conduct the exams, if the board sticks to its schedule.

Highlighting that there are no clear instruction on protocols and seeking more clarity, the principal asked, “what happens when one student who shared an exam hall tests positive? What happens to others?”

But while this option can be implemented for Class 10 students, most of whom come back to the same school for Class 11, it may not be the best option for Class 12 students, who have college admissions ahead, he said.

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