NEW DELHI, INDIA SEPTEMBER 22: Students of class 12th exit after appearing for CBSE's Compartment Board Exam at Ramjas School, in Pusa Road, on September 22, 2020 in New Delhi, India. As per the official data shared by CBSE, as many as 1,50,198 students from Class 10 and 87,651 students from Class 12 have been placed for compartment examinations.
Image: Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Just as the 2020 board examinations were affected by the coronavirus outbreak, this year’s board examinations too have been delayed due to the pandemic. While last year, some of the exams scheduled towards the end of March were cancelled, the government and Central Board of Secondary Education’s (CBSE) intent of holding physical examinations for classes 10 and 12 this year has pushed the exams to May. Union education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank on December 31 announced that the CBSE class 10 and 12 board exams will be conducted between May 4, 2021 and June 10, 2021.
This will be the first time the board exams will be conducted in May. Every year the examinations are held between February and March. While the delay will also push college and university admission dates, it will give extra time to students to prepare better.
“Around 70 percent of India’s student base resides in rural areas where resources and access to technology are still very limited. This delay will particularly benefit such students who can now expect more in-class sessions in the coming months,” says Girish Kumar, principal, Apeejay School, Jalandhar.
While schools in several states like Bihar, Karnataka, Punjab, Maharashtra (Pune and Nagpur), and Odisha have decided to reopen schools after a gap of several months while adhering to the COVID-19 guidelines, some private schools have opted not to reopen. “We had proposed resuming classes to parents of around 1,000 students from classes 9 to 12 but got a positive response from parents of only 30 students. Given the safety concerns, we have decided against it,” says Kumar.
Ashok Agarwal, president of the All India Parents Association, said that while parents welcome the decision of exams being scheduled for May, the board should further reduce the syllabus for both class 10 and 12 students. CBSE in July had rationed the syllabus by 30 percent. “Our suggestion is that the CBSE should further reduce the syllabus by 20 percent enabling students to take examinations on 50 percent of the syllabus only. It will reduce stress for students who weren’t able to attend classes at all this academic year.”
A total of 24,698 schools affiliated with CBSE will be conducting the practical exams from March 1. While the delay in the practical and final exams has largely been lauded by teachers, parents, and students across the country, there are a few concerns. “This is the first time we will be giving exams in the classroom after a whole year of online preparation. So the doubt of being prepared enough along with the fear of getting infected with coronavirus will lead to greater anxiety on the exam day,” says Nitant Kaushik, a class 12 student. “More time and a reduced syllabus would lead to a possibility of even higher cut-offs for college admissions,” he adds.
Parents should understand that these are challenging times for students and should try their level best to keep their child’s morale high, says Agarwal. “We’re confident that teachers will make the best of whatever time is left for the students and children should be calm and confident and focus on giving their best for the board exams.”
State and CBSE board exams are typically preceded by internal school exams called the “pre-board exams”. These are meant to prepare students for the public board exams. Across schools, these have already been conducted or are scheduled for January. With the extra time, schools are planning to conduct another set of pre-boards in the school premises. “Since the syllabus has already been covered, the delay now allows us to conduct one set of physical exams that will give students a better idea of what to expect from the board,” says Kumar.
The CBSE is yet to release the date sheet and the method of examination. While every year students have to go to the schools they have been allocated for the exams, this time teachers and parents would prefer their children to sit for exams in their respective schools. “The schedule should be formulated in a way where one class has only 12-15 students per exam slot and in their respective schools, instead of children and parents travelling to different premises,” says Kumar. “This might help in reducing the risks of Covid-19 and make the students feel less anxious.”
Teachers anticipate that instead of the spot evaluation—which involves 30 to 40 teachers checking the answer sheets in predetermined premises—the sheets would be marked just like last year. “How the checking will be done depends on the circumstances at that time, but we think the answer sheets will be delivered to us at home just like last year,” says Jagjeet Kaur, mathematics head of department at Apeejay School, Jalandhar.
CBSE has announced that the results will be announced by July 15, which will mean that the admission process for colleges and universities will also be delayed. The concerns for students going to study abroad, too, continue with uncertainty over the dates and methods of admissions. “The process of finding and applying for colleges abroad was more tedious this year than before. Right now it seems there will be a lot of uncertainty related to the provisional admission confirmations,” says Shaurya Sharma, a class 12 student who has applied to Concordia University, Canada.
Meanwhile, it appears that the hybrid model is here to stay, at least for a while. “I think this hybrid of online education and offline examinations will continue for quite some time,” says Kumar. Though, he adds, “We will try to get back to school as much as possible because while online classes and sessions enable the students to gather information and gain knowledge, the personal, social, and emotional development will only happen in a social set-up inside school premises. Everything cannot be taught through screens.”