Indian students worry as COVID derails exams

International

Delhi, 13 June: Earlier this month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the cancellation of key school-leaving examinations.

"We were glued to our phones, waiting for the announcement on Twitter," 18-year-old Vishwas Dubey told the BBC. He was among millions of students who were due to take the national school-leaving tests.

The examinations - popularly called boards - are crucial for students hoping to secure admission in some of India's most prestigious public universities.

The exams, originally planned for May, were postponed to July, with the authorities saying they would do a review on 1 June.

The cancellation came as a huge relief to many who were anxious about writing exams at a time when Indian towns and cities were gripped by a deadly second wave of Covid-19 pandemic. But, students said, this relief soon gave way to anxiety.

Shubransu Dash, a student from Cuttack city in the eastern state of Odisha (formerly Orissa), described it as a "somewhat bittersweet moment" when he found out that he wouldn't have to write the tests under such pressure but it also opened up a whole world of uncertainty. "I was studying very hard, logged on to Zoom calls from early morning to late noon. But with exams canceled, how do we prove ourselves?" he asked.

 

For the most part, the education system in India is geared towards this one big board exam that Class 12 students have to take. It marks the culmination of their school life and forms the basis for all their future studies.

The cancellation of these tests, students say, complicates matters.

In their cancellation order of 1 June, authorities said that students would be marked according to a "well-defined, objective criteria" which would be announced later.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), the government-controlled board that conducts these examinations, said experts would look at all angles and decide how students would be evaluated.

Some educationists feel that students could be marked on the basis of their performance in previously-held examinations such as pre-boards - internal school tests conducted before the final boards.

 

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