Govt decision to conduct offline exams affecting the mental state of students

Students of different boards have been campaigning on platforms like Twitter and Change.org demanding the cancellation of board exams owing to restrictions and reasons related to Covid-19 conditions existing in India, read a strong piece in against of the proposed class XII examinations by Dr Anjana Varma

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Dr Anjana Varma
is Chairperson CSA, Director TGL, Senior Director FWO and Editor- The International Journal

India is witnessing an unprecedented surge of Covid-19 resulting in a high death toll and fatality rate. Reports suggest the peak has passed, but the decline as we see is considerably slow. The government’s decision to hold board exams in offline mode, amidst the intense virus spread is gathering much criticism. The PIL filed in SC on behalf of students seeking cancellation of exams has been accepted for hearing on an urgent basis. Let’s go through a few points on how the decision for offline exams would affect the stakeholders in the present scenario.

Keypoints:

  • Exposing the students to the virus poses a high risk to their lives
  • Quality coaching has not been imparted and portions not fully covered
  • The exam centres can be possible hotspots that can trigger an early third wave
  • Lack of proper infrastructure to hold offline exams during the virus spread
  • Delay in exams will reduce the duration of next academic year
  • Prolonged academic year, uncertainty regarding future creates severe mental stress in students
  • The highest court has taken the matter for urgent hearing considering the severity of the situation
  • Admission to foreign universities will be denied for inability to submit final result on time
  • Students face discrimination as class 10 exams are cancelled due to the same pandemic
  • Several state boards substituting home exams and internal assessment for exams causes unfair treatment of students across different boards
  • Boards of other countries have already cancelled the exams leaving the Indian students at a disadvantage
  • Children who have been infected or lost family members find it difficult to overcome the trauma
  • No discussions with students or parents who are stakeholders
  • Mental health of students is of prime importance
  • Vaccinations still not planned for students
  • Doctors and educationists strongly advise against offline exams
  • Prominent leaders and organisations have written to the PM and education ministry in support of students
  • Lives matter more than exams

The students of different boards have been campaigning on platforms like Twitter and Change.org demanding the cancellation of board exams owing to restrictions and reasons related to Covid conditions existing in the country. The plight of students of class XII especially those belonging to the CBSE board is evident in their tweets as the government plans to go ahead with physical exams during the peak of the pandemic. 2.5 Lakh cases per day is not a small number to be taken lightly.

The student-parent community has come together in an amazingly brilliant manner to address the issue during a lockdown-like situation when meeting each other is impossible. The petition in Change.org has gained the support of more than 6 lakh people. The hashtags demanding cancellation of exams have been trending several times in Twitter too. Simultaneously the government held discussions with state officials about the possibilities of conducting exams offline and has shortlisted two options without consultation with student representatives.

However, the children are undergoing extreme stress, agony as well as mental fatigue due to the fear of virus exposure and also lack of quality coaching throughout the year. The question from their side is how can they focus on exams with a clear mind while concentrating on Covid protocols. The students can’t be blamed either for their question if exams are important than their lives.

Quite naturally the kids raise concerns of being discriminated against as class 10 exams have been cancelled and results are being declared based on internal assessment. According to them they merely fail to understand how class XII students are resistant to the virus if class 10 students are not. Parents have also come up in full support of students as they consider sending their wards out of homes is dangerous. The contradictory stand of the government forcing the students out of their homes for the exam itself invites dissent from all quarters as the slogan for the whole nation is ‘Stay at home, Stay safe’

As per the reports, state boards including that of CGBSE, CISCE, UP, Maha, Delhi have already decided to cancel exams and provide home exams or internal assessment procedure to their candidates which would leave CBSE students in a pathetic state due to unfair treatment where they would be left considerably behind in performance with the stressful and newly altered offline exam pattern on short notice when their counterparts give open-book exams. The proposed new pattern of exam is not being much favoured as fresh preparations are required after being in the same class for more than a year.

It is of common knowledge that no institutions can guarantee 100% compliance with Covid protocol which again will contribute to push the kids to the highest exposure to the virus in exam centres. Teachers and staff on exam duty will be drastically affected too. The country has witnessed what happened after the elections and do we need a repetition of that? When the whole world stays at home for safety from infection, these unfortunate people are forced to spend hours in exam centres that might turn to be virus hotspots.

To ensure equal opportunity to all, results can be declared using the internal assessment method or by calculating the average marks of previous year performances of the students without any harm to anyone whatsoever, then why unnecessarily create a risk for the lives of students! The whole aim is to find another amicable way of assessing the knowledge of candidates as ‘pen and paper’ tests cannot be the sole method to declare results at any point of time. Assignments or project work can also be used for evaluation.

A PIL filed in the SC has been accepted for hearing on an urgent basis. Meanwhile, the government is all set to declare the date sheet by May 30. Around 300 students and parents have also written to CJI citing urgent resolution of the issue. Another letter by around 8000 parents has also been sent to CJI separately, says news reports. Experts are also of the opinion that it’s sheer hypocrisy on the side of officials to meet virtually and push children towards offline exams.

The big problem here is when most other countries have cancelled exams in favour of their students India’s stubbornness to hold exams though conditions are not favourable is noticed.

The tentative dates for offline exams are from July to Aug which means the results will be published after a month at the least. This will delay and shorten the first academic year of the courses the students get enrolled into. Many candidates who eyeing foreign universities to secure higher education would be denied admission as they cannot submit their final results on time.

The need of the hour is to ensure the safety, health and lives of children as no exam can be important than the lives of people in the country. Prevention is anyhow better than trying to cure after the damage is done. This is an issue of significance where egos and politics need to be left behind and the whole country has to come forward to take care of its future generation to avert possible complications. The vaccination process not planned for students is another area of concern.

Moreover, protecting the mental and physical well-being of students from deterioration is equally important as physical health. As already mentioned, students are experiencing severe psychological trauma, anxiety and insecurities as a result of the decisions imposed against their collective will arising out of worst circumstances harming their lives and future, even after genuine efforts to cope. Appropriate care should be taken to ensure mental wellness for adolescents and to encourage their growth as clearly thinking citizens.

The matter no doubt is an urgent and national concern hence the huge uproar on behalf of the students and parents to cancel offline board exams and to declare the result using any alternative method this year, which does not require the physical presence of candidates. The student community remains hopeful that the highest organ of the judiciary will take cognizance and intervene to avoid any unpleasant decisions affecting their future.

In a democratic country where there is a government elected by the people, listening to the voices of citizens is most essential. Devoid of political motives, the innocent minds put forth the question to the nation – “Shouldn’t the students have a say in matters involving their future?”

Dr Anjana Varma
is Chairperson CSA, Director TGL, Senior Director FWO and Editor- The International Journal

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