Mumbai: “Physics paper was tough, will I get grace marks?"
"Invigilators are allowing students to cheat in exams."
"Invigilator taunts differently-abled candidates as 'paagal'."
These were some of the queries handled by the counsellors manning the helpline set up by the state education board's Mumbai division during the Secondary School Certificate and Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC) examinations, which concluded recently.
The calls ranged from common questions about board exams to more critical inquiries about the lack of facilities at exam centres and special arrangements for sick candidates. The counsellors also fielded a number of calls about some of the issues that marred the board exams this year including the alleged leak of HSC Mathematics paper, confusion over HSC Hindi exam dates due to 'fake' time-table and the board's decision to cancel and then reinstate extra 10 minutes for tests.
The Mumbai Division of Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) released the numbers of four board officials and thirteen counsellors to guide students and parents during the two board exams. Two of the counsellors were stationed at the board's divisional office in Vashi, while others worked remotely. The helplines were available on February 15, six days before the Class 12 exams began, and continued till March 25, when the Class 10 exams concluded.
According to Shrikant Shingare, one of the counsellors answering the helpline, the volume of calls was much higher in the early days of exams. "We would receive around 60 to 70 calls every day. While the helpline was meant for students within the Mumbai division, we got calls from across the state, some even from outside the state. We guided the students according to their queries," he said.
In one instance, two city students approached the board after their schools denied them hall tickets due to non-payment of fees. After the board officials intervened, they were issued hall tickets.
The counsellors received complaints about an exam centre denying extra time to differently-abled candidates. One of the invigilators even used the pejorative 'paagal (retarded)' for them. "We spoke to the centre in-charge and sensitised them about treating differently-abled students fairly," said Murlidhar More, another counsellor.
Following the reports of two images from Class 12 Mathematics paper allegedly leaking on social media before the test, several calls were placed on the board helpline. The students wanted to know if there will be a retest. They were made aware of the board's decision to not conduct the exam again, as the alleged leak was found to have occurred after most of the students had entered the exam hall.
After several students missed out on their HSC Hindi paper due to erroneous time-tables doing rounds on social media, they also approached the board's counsellors. "We asked them to refer to the board's official schedule instead of relying on the faulty ones," said Shingare.
The counsellors also routinely handled queries about the seating arrangement, private candidate exams, 'out-of-turn' practical tests, change in name on certificate and class improvement.
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