Students wearing face masks appearing  for class 10 board exams amid spike in coronavirus cases in Jammu
Students wearing face masks appearing for class 10 board exams amid spike in coronavirus cases in Jammu

Decision on class 12 board exams to be taken at the earliest: Union Education Minister

At a high-level meeting amid demands to cancel the exams, alternatives like changing the exam pattern and reducing the number of subjects were proposed.

An "informed, collaborative" decision on the class 12 board exams will be taken at the earliest, the Union Education Minister said on Sunday after a high-level meet could not take a call on  the matter. The Delhi government and a section of parents have sought for the exams to be canceled amid the pandemic, while others have expressed preference for holding them at a later period. After the over-two-hour meeting chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ said the states and union territories have been asked to submit their detailed suggestions on the matter by May 25.

An informed, collaborative decision on the exams will be taken "at the earliest" to remove uncertainty in the minds of students and their parents, the education minister said, adding that safety, security and future of students and teachers are "supremely important to us". The virtual meeting was convened to decide on the class 12 board exams and subsequent entrance examinations that were postponed due to the second wave of COVID-19. 

"The meeting was extremely fruitful as we received immensely valuable suggestions. I have requested the state governments to send me their detailed suggestions by May 25. I am confident we will be able to arrive at an informed, collaborative decision regarding the exams and remove the uncertainty among students and parent's minds by informing them of our final decision at the earliest," Nishank said. "I want to reiterate that both students' and teachers' safety, security, and future are supremely important to us," he added.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh chaired the crucial meeting. Union ministers Smriti Irani, Prakash Javadekar and Sanjay Dhotre also attended the meeting, besides education ministers and secretaries of several states and union territories. According to officials, the options proposed by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) as well as the feasibility to execute them were discussed at length during the meeting. A large number of students and parents have been demanding cancellation of the board exams. The hashtag cancelboardexams trended on Twitter as the meeting was underway.

It was proposed that the board can conduct exams in the present format for major subjects and the marking for remaining subjects can be done on the basis of performance in the papers for which offline exams will be conducted. The board said the exams can be conducted using this option and increasing the number of centres to ensure social distancing. The other option that was proposed was changing the pattern of the exam. If this option is chosen, the exams can be conducted in home schools of students, the duration can be reduced to 90 minutes rather than 3 hours and the questions can be objective type. The students can also be given an option to appear for any three of four subjects in this format, a senior official said.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said his government was not in favour of the options being explored by CBSE to conduct the exams and that going ahead with the process without vaccinating students would prove to be a big mistake. “The Delhi government is not in favour of these options. We cannot play with the safety of students just to fulfil our stubborn wishes. Conducting the examination by toying with students' safety will prove to be a big mistake. There are over 1.5 crore class 12 students across the country and 95% of them are above the age of seventeen-and-a-half years,” he said at a press conference post the meeting. “The Union  government should talk to experts if they can be given the Covishield or Covaxin vaccines. The government should also talk to Pfizer to explore vaccination for the Class 12 students. It is a must to vaccinate students, especially with experts indicating that the third wave of the coronavirus will be more dangerous for children," he added.

The Tamil Nadu government proposed conducting the exams after the COVID-19 situation subsides in the state. "Like other states, Tamil Nadu also wanted to conduct the class 12 board exams as it plays an important role in deciding students' careers," School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi told reporters after the meeting. Karnataka Primary and Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar said it's important to conduct class 12 exams in the interest of students.

The CBSE had on April 14 announced the cancellation of class 10 exams and postponed class 12 exams due to the surge in COVID-19 cases. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The April and May sessions of the engineering entrance exam JEE-Mains were also postponed. The board 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. Schools across the country were closed in March last year to contain the spread of COVID-19 ahead of a nationwide lockdown.

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