Maharashtra: Students of Classes 1 to 8 to be promoted, 10th and 12th students irked by compulsory offline board exams

Written by Alfiya Khan, ANURADHA MASCAREHNAS | Pune |

Updated: April 4, 2021 4:28:14 pm

In a major relief to parents, teachers and students alike, Maharashtra School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad Saturday announced the decision of the Education Department to promote all students from classes 1 to 8 to the next class without holding examinations across all state board schools. The decision has been taken in the wake of the recent surge in coronavirus cases, said Gaikwad, adding that the decision regarding students of Classes IX and XI will be announced soon.

As news spread, mixed reactions were received from parents and students. While on one hand, most welcomed the decision to promote students from classes 1 to 8 to the next class without exams, it also created a flutter amongst parents and students of class 10 and 12, who have been protesting for a while, demanding that the final board exams be held online or in a blended mode, instead of offline exams as announced earlier. Earlier in February, Gaikwad had said board examinations for classes 10 and 12 will be held across the state. Currently, several districts have announced stringent lockdowns and curfews to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus and schools have been ordered to be shut.

Kavita Marathe, parent to an HSC student and someone who has been working in the education sector for 15 years, said, “Class 10 and 12 students are no different from those in classes 9 and 11. Students’ safety should be our first priority, and a practical approach is very important at this point. Why risk the life of so many students and their families? In my case, I will take leave 10 days prior to the exam as work from home facility is not available. I need to do this to remain in a safe environment and avoid risks before the exam. There are similar leave applications in my office with the same reason. Since they asked students to reach one hour before exams, my ward would spend practically five hours at exam centre each day. Who will ensure students’ safety during this time?”

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Sheetal Jha, the parent of a class 10 student from Mohammedwadi said, “Currently, vaccinations are underway for the 45-plus age group. If they really want to make offline exams compulsory, they should first vaccinate all board students on priority. More importantly, does Covid infection risk remain only for a Class IX student and not a Class X one? What kind of immunity does a board exam bring? It is so difficult to make teenagers comply with safety precautions like wearing masks and not hugging each other. They will see their friends after nearly a year, and naturally, all this will happen. Just like how the CBSE gives an option of school-level exams for Class X students, why can’t the state board do something similar?” she asked.

A class 12 student, Anubhav Mitra, said many students have been writing to the education minister, hoping that exams would be held online or at least in a blended mode i.e. a mix of online and offline modes.

“Many universities conducted online exams last year for degree students. it can be done by asking students to keep their cameras on and using AI technology. We understand these exams are very important, but even we are scared of what will happen. Besides, when they are so confident that online learning is not an issue, then why not online examinations? Or are exams more important than learning?” he questioned.

Meanwhile, even as most welcomed the decision to promote the students from Class I to VIII unilaterally, it did meet with some criticism as well. “I think this shows how deep our education system is dependent on examinations and is less about learning. All they are concerned about is promoting students to the next class. We had so many students from poor-income families who couldn’t even join online classes and we spent the better part of the last academic year securing phones and donations for them. What about the gaps in learning? How will students, who missed an entire year or majority of it, cope?” questioned a secondary school teacher from an aided school in Kondhwa.

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