As India battles the second wave of the pandemic, many states across the country have decided to cancel and postpone the board examinations for classes 10 and 12. However, there is no confirmation on the dates of the Class 12 exam yet.
Now, a high-level meeting is being held today with all the States/UT education ministers, education secretaries and chairpersons of state examination boards and stakeholders to discuss the proposals for the conduct of examinations for Class 12 and entrance examinations for professional courses.
According to a release by the Ministry of Education, the meeting is being chaired by Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in the presence of Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank'.
Union Ministers Smriti Irani and Prakash Javadekar are also be present at the meeting.
What exactly will be discussed in the meeting?
"The Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education and CBSE are exploring options regarding conducting the examinations, keeping in mind the safety and security of the students and the teachers. The Department of Higher Education is also deliberating upon the finalization of the dates of examinations for institutions of higher learning," Pokhriyal stated in its letter to the states and UTs.
The letter further noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected various areas including the education sector, particularly the board exams and entrance exams.
"In view of the prevailing situation, almost all the State Education Boards, CBSE and ICSE have postponed their Class XII examinations. Similarly, the National Testing Agency (NTA) and other National exam conducting institutions have also postponed the entrance exams for admissions to professional courses," the letter read.
Taking to Twitter, Pokhriyal has also sought inputs from all the stakeholders - students, parents, teachers and others through the microblogging site.
"The Prime Minister has desired that any decision affecting the careers of his beloved students has to be taken in wide consultations with all state governments and stakeholders. I recently held a meeting with the State Education Secretaries in this regard," the Union Minister tweeted.
What decisions are likely?
According to CBSE sources, the possible options that can be explored are --conducting pen and paper mode exams for only major subjects, conducting all exams in two phases planned as per the COVID-19 situation in different states or districts, or cancelling the exams and announcing results as per an alternative assessment scheme.
A senior board official, however, said, "nothing has been finalised yet. A final call will only be taken by the Education Ministry after considering suggestions from all stakeholders".
Other senior Union ministers and state education ministers are expected to attend the meeting.
While a large section of students and parents have been demanding that the exams be cancelled, school principals have varied views on the possible options that can be explored.
"Under present circumstances, I visualize JEE type of online exams, through the involvement of the NTA. It would require setting up of the centres as per different locations, involving schools as self-centres or perhaps both. It would be a humongous exercise but can be at least considered for all major subjects opted for by a large number of students.
"For subjects with very few enrolments, the OTP linked delivery of paper to be printed and conducted at home Centres, is also a possibility," said Sangeeta Hajela, Principal, DPS Indirapuram.
Rajat Goel, Director, MGR School Rohini, said, the assessment exam can be conducted online by the CBSE or the school may be allowed to plan an internal exam.
"It can contain MCQs with some objective type questions. The exam can be conducted for every subject wherein the question paper is framed in such a way that student has to apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills in attempting those questions," he said.
"There can be another part of aptitude test that can be made an intrinsic part of question papers as it will help them in passing the entrance exams of various universities or colleges," he added.
However, Pallavi Upadhyaya, Principal, DPS-RNE Ghaziabad, said the digital divide has to be kept in mind before deciding on an alternative mode of assessment.
"Board exams for class 12 are not an independently managed examination. It involves several factors which need due time and consideration before being subjected to any change.
"Hence, devising an alternative mode of assessment will be a challenging task if it is in an online mode, as the digital divide in India is a reality. CBSE has to revamp the entire infrastructure, and come up with a plan that suits all from rural, semi-urban to urban schools," she said.
The CBSE had on April 14 announced the cancellation of Class 10 exams and postponed Class 12 exams in view of the surge in COVID-19 cases. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The exams, which are usually conducted in February-March every year, were scheduled to be held from May 4.
The CBSE had announced that a decision on the Class 12 board exams will be taken on or after June 1.
(With inputs from agencies)