The Union government on Tuesday cancelled the CBSE Class 12 examinations to ward off the threat of coronavirus infections, ending months of uncertainty for roughly 1.4 million students who were to appear for the school-leaving tests.
The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday amid appeals by students, who feared the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) exam could infect them because those under 18 aren’t currently eligible for vaccination.
“After extensive consultations, we have taken a decision that is student friendly, one that safeguards the health as well as the future of our youth,” Modi tweeted.
Hours later, the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) also scrapped its Class 12 exams or ISE exams. “The board has decided to cancel class 12 exams in view of the pandemic situation. We will soon come up with an alternative assessment criteria,” said Gerry Arathoon, chief executive of CISCE.
The CBSE Class 10 board exams were cancelled in April.
“Health and safety of our students is of utmost importance and there would be no compromise on this aspect,” Modi said, according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
In the meeting, which saw detailed presentations on consultations with all stakeholders and state governments, the government also decided that CBSE will take steps to compile the results of Class 12 students as per a “well-defined objective criteria” in a timebound manner. Students will be provided an option to appear in exams later if they want.
The PM said Covid-19 affected the academic calendar and the issue of board exams caused immense anxiety among students, parents and teachers, which must be put to an end. “Students should not be forced to appear for exams in such a stressful situation,” Modi said, according to the PMO statement.
Nearly 1.4 million students were scheduled to take the CBSE Class 12 examinations, which serve as a crucial barometer for college admissions.
“The University of Delhi fully supports the decision taken to cancel the forthcoming CBSE Board examinations. The University of Delhi looks forward to the decision taken by CBSE regarding the declaration of the results,” said Rajeev Gupta, chairperson of admissions at the university.
Last year, too, the CBSE Class 12 examinations were interrupted by the Covid-19 outbreak and the lockdown. The board held exams till March 18 and postponed the remaining 29 subjects to July but finally told the Supreme Court that it will allow Class 12 students to appear in physical exams or take assessment based on past three exams.
Students who appeared for exams in more than three subjects were awarded the average of their three highest scores in papers whose exams weren’t conducted. Students who appeared for exams in only two subjects were awarded the average of their top two scores in papers whose exams weren’t conducted.
This year, the exams were scheduled for May 4 but were postponed as infections and deaths surged during the second wave of Covid. Even when cases ebbed in late May, health experts warned that holding physical examinations could become a superspreader event and result in spiraling infections.
Students and parents also appealed to the government and approached the Supreme Court, saying examinees were not yet vaccinated and could get infected and spread the disease. The apex court hearing was scheduled for Thursday.
In response, PMO said the health of students was paramount
“Covid situation is a dynamic situation across the country. While the numbers are coming down in the country and some states are managing the situation through effective micro-containment, some states have still opted for a lockdown. Students, parents, and teachers are naturally worried about the health of the students in such a situation. The students should not be forced to appear for exams in such a stressful situation,” the PMO statement read.
Tuesday’s decision ended months of uncertainty for students.
“We had been living with constant uncertainty and anxiety since April. At least this announcement has put a closure to that. The CBSE should now come up with a student friendly alternative criteria. No students should be put in a disadvantaged position,” said Ankita Tiwari, a Class 12 student in a private school in South Delhi.
On April 10, the CBSE Class 10 exams were cancelled and Class 12 exams postponed. The government said it will review the situation by June 1 and take a decision.
On May 23, the government offered two options 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 preferred the second option. Only Delhi, Punjab and West Bengal opposed holding the examinations immediately.
“I am glad 12th exams have been cancelled. All of us were very worried about the health of our children. A big relief,” tweeted Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Tuesday’s meeting was attended by the Union ministers of home, defence, finance, commerce, information & broadcasting, petroleum, and women & child development. Also in attendance were the principal secretary to PM, cabinet secretary, secretaries of school education and higher education departments, and other officials.
Officials who attended the meeting said the PM was briefed about feedback received from states. During the meeting, Modi stressed the health and safety of students were of utmost importance. “In today’s time, such exams cannot be the reason to put our youth at risk. All stakeholders need to show sensitivity to students. The Prime Minister directed officials to ensure that the results are prepared in accordance with well-defined criteria, in a fair and timebound manner,” the statement added.
Principals and experts have suggested that an alternative assessment pattern could include either internal exams of Class 12 or the past performances of the students in Classes 10 to 12.
“School-based assessment is the only option now. Teachers may play a key role here. Based on a short subject assessment, practical/ project marks, online proctored testing are the possibilities. A small weightage of internal assessments in 11, 12 and possibly class 10 boards ( two best subjects )may also be considered,” said Ashok Pandey, chairperson of Ahlcon Schools in Delhi.
Educationist Meeta Sengupta said the board could consider internal scores of Classes 11 and 12 plus the Class 10 board exam marks. “The results of Class 10 exams can be used in calculating average marks since these exams were conducted under the supervision of governance of the CBSE,” she said.