Amid students’ objections, AP govt insists on holding intermediate exams from May 5

While CBSE and ICSE class 12 boards have been postponed, the Andhra government has insisted that intermediate exams will be held in the interest of students’ future.
Students writing an exam wearing masks in Allahabad in September 2020
Students writing an exam wearing masks in Allahabad in September 2020
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At a time when many important national level exams have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation, the Andhra Pradesh government has reiterated that the schedule for board exams of class 10 and intermediate (class 11 and 12) remains unchanged. Amid persistent demands from students and parents, and the opposition TDP (Telugu Desam Party), to postpone the exams, state Education Minister Adimulapu Suresh on Thursday said that the intermediate board exams will be held from May 5 to 19, at 1,452 examination centres across the state, “following COVID-19 protocol ensuring safety for every student.”

The hall tickets can be downloaded by students from 6 pm on April 29. At a time when COVID-19 infections have risen to huge numbers, students said there is no requirement to undergo tests or providing a negative COVID-19 certificate before appearing for the exam. While authorities have said that an isolation room will be arranged in each exam centre for students showing COVID-19 symptoms, students and parents have expressed apprehensions that screening students based on temperature and symptoms alone is an inadequate measure to prevent the spread of the virus in the exam halls. Students claimed that the practical exams held earlier in April did not have strict COVID-19 protocol, lowering their confidence regarding the upcoming exams at a time when the COVID-19 situation in the state has worsened. 

Arjun, an intermediate second-year student who recently tested positive for the coronavirus amid the practical exams, said that his exam centre in Vijayawada did not have very strict rules. “Physical distancing wasn’t properly followed, and there were a few students who showed symptoms like coughing, who weren’t isolated from the rest of us,”  he said. After appearing for the practical exams on April 6, 7 and 9, Arjun tested positive for the coronavirus on April 9. After remaining in isolation, he appeared for his last practical exam on April 24, with his doctor advising that it would be alright since it was unlikely that he was still infectious. He notes that there was no screening mechanism at the exam centre. “I wrote the exam in a rush, as I felt uncomfortable and breathless wearing a proper mask in the heat for more than two hours,” Arjun said. 

Students with visual impairments and disabilities have also been faced with added challenges in appearing for exams amid the pandemic.

More than 10 lakh students are expected to appear for the intermediate exams this year. Last year, around 5 lakh intermediate first-year students and 4.35 lakh second-year students appeared for the exams in Andhra Pradesh. The state Education Minister has said that students and their parents need not worry about the conduct of the exams, as strict preventive measures will be taken at every exam centre. A COVID-19 Special Officer has been appointed for each district, and all the test centres would be sanitized every day, apart from having thermal scanning, he said. Invigilators will be provided with PPE kits. Students who have COVID-19 can take the exams later if they provide their COVID-19 medical certificate. These supplementary exams (for students who now have COVID-19) will be considered as regular exams, the Minister said. 

The state government has insisted that the exams are important because if they are not conducted, students will be at a disadvantage in the future, as they will only be given a pass certificate. On April 28, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy said that with the Union government leaving the matter of conducting exams up to state governments, a few states are going ahead with exams. In such circumstances, CM Jagan said that students of Andhra Pradesh, if given a mere pass certificate, will be unable to compete with students from other states who have higher marks, during admissions to top colleges. 

However, both the ICSE and CBSE class 12 boards have been postponed due to rising COVID-19 cases. Earlier in April, the ICSE board exams for class 12 which were scheduled to be held from May 4, were postponed by the CISCE (Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations). The CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) also postponed its class 12 board exams scheduled from May 4 to June 15, stating that the situation will be reviewed in June.

The April session of the JEE (Main) exam (the third of four phases of the exam), scheduled to be held on April 27, 28, and 30, has also been postponed. Among other major competitive exams for students who have completed class 12, NEET-UG 2021 is scheduled for August 1, and BITSAT is tentatively scheduled from June 24 to 30. Some of the entrance exams continue to have a minimum required percentage in class 12 board exams as one of the eligibility criteria. For JEE-Advanced, this requirement (minimum 75% in class 12 exams) has been relaxed in 2020 (due to the pandemic) and 2021 as well. 

With inadequate classroom teaching time in the past academic year, corporate colleges in the state have not given much importance to preparation for the intermediate exam, instead focusing the limited time on the impending competitive exams, said Sowmya, an intermediate second-year student from Vizag. “Many students are anxious about their future, while also dealing with COVID-19 infections in the family,” she said. 

The TDP has been demanding the cancellation of the intermediate exams and has even filed a petition in this regard in the Andhra Pradesh High Court, according to party General Secretary Nara Lokesh. 

Jagan has criticised the opposition saying they were igniting controversy for political gains in the midst of a major crisis. As of April  29 morning, a total of 1,14,158 active COVID-19 cases were recorded in the state. Fifty-seven COVID-19 deaths were recorded in the 24-hour period ending at 9 am on April 29, taking the total death toll to 7,928. Out of 86,035 samples tested in this 24-hour period, 14,792 tested positive for the coronavirus. 

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