How a Legal Battle Forced ICSE & ISC to Allow Internal Assessment

The petition was filed by a parent against the conduct of pending ICSE & ISC exams in July.

3 min read
The petition was filed by a parent against the conduct of pending ICSE & ISC exams in July.

Days after the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) informed the Bombay High Court that students appearing for Class 10 ICSE and Class 12 ISC Board examinations could choose not to write pending papers in July and instead opt for internal assessment, the court on Wednesday, 17 June, asked the council to present its plan for alternative grading.

But how did the CISCE come up with an alternate plan and how did the matter reach the doors of the higher judiciary in Maharashtra?

The root of this matter before the Bombay High Court lies in a 22 May notification, through which CISCE declared that pending ICSE & ISC exams would be conducted between 2 to 12 July and 1 to 14 July respectively. The council also released a revised time table along with detailed instructions.

When the notification was issued, on May 22, the total number of coronavirus cases in India stood at 1,18,447 and 3,583 had lost their lives. Mumbai alone had the lion’s share of total cases, at 41,642 active cases.

First Parents, then Maharashtra – CISCE Exams Opposed

On 1 June, barely ten days after the CISCE came out with a revised time table, the parent of a Class 12 student moved the Bombay High Court, asking for cancellation of board examinations.

Arguing that the “decision of the respondents severely violates fundamental rights provided under the Constitution” as it exposes them to the threat of getting infected, the petitioner asked ICSE to grade students on the basis of their performance in previous exams.

The number of coronavirus cases in India on 1 June crossed 1,90,000, which was 71,553 more than what it was on 22 May, when the revised time table was announced. The death toll for the same day stood at 5,394, a jump of 1,811 since 22 May.

On 3 June, the Maharashtra government wrote to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the CISCE, saying that owing to the coronavirus situation in the state, the government would not be in a position to allow board examinations.

Maintaining that the conduct of examinations would require movement of students and teachers to centres and would therefore put their safety at risk, the Maharashtra government asked the two boards to either postpone scheduled exams or evaluate students on the basis of internal assessment – the latter now a pivotal demand by students cutting across boards, entrance examinations, colleges and universities.

On 6 June, representatives from CBSE and CISCE met Maharashtra government officials and asked the state to reconsider its decision to not allow board examinations in July.

On the same day, India’s coronavirus tally stood at 2,36,657, a jump of 46,365 since 1 June. Till then, 6,642 had died of the disease.

CISCE Remained Firm on Exams in July

In a hearing on 12 June, over the petition filed by a parent against the conduct of ICSE and ISC exams, the CISCE told the Bombay High Court that it had decided to go ahead with exams in Maharashtra, despite reservations from the state government.

CISCE said that it would be conducting exams in July while taking all precautions, while adding that it was not obliged to follow the Maharashtra government’s decision to not hold Board examinations, as it was not under the control of the state, and hence did not need permission from it.

The number of coronavirus cases on 12 June crossed the 3,00,000 mark as the country registered 10,000 new cases the same day – its highest single-day peak till then. The number of COVID-19 deaths in the country stood at 8,498.

Finally, CISCE Relents

However, on 15 June, the CISCE, in a notice said that students had the option of either appearing for pending examinations in July or be graded for remaining subjects on the basis of internal assessment or pre-board examinations conducted by the school or grades obtained in ICSE/ISC exams already conducted.

CISCE also clarified that results of subjects for which board examinations have already been conducted, will be marked on the basis of the said exams only.

The council also mentioned that schools would be required to communicate to it, the list of students who may have opted for either of the options provided by 22 June.

Even after choosing between board exams and internal assessment, students will have the option of changing their decision, provided the same is communicated by the school to the board before the conduct of board examinations starting 1 July.

CISCE also mentioned that in case conducting board examinations is not possible, students will be graded in the same way as they would have been, under the internal assessment mode.

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