Board Examinations are not more important than young lives of a young nation!   Let schools complete the Class XII exam process. 

-Gautam Puri, Co-Founder and Vice Chairman, Career Launcher

Should the Class XII examination be conducted? If yes – when?  and How should it be?  If the answer is a big ‘No’, then how do you evaluate the students and how will the college admissions take place?

All the Class XII students, their families and schools are waiting for the authorities to answer these questions. The Education Ministers and the boards are seized of this matter.  Hopefully, the uncertainty will end soon.

However, the proposals by CBSE on the issue are strange, to say the least. It has recommended the following two options: 

  1. Exam for major subjects to be held as per the existing format at the designated exam centers. This process will take up to 3 months.
  2. Exam for major subjects of 1.5-hour duration to be conducted in the school of the student. This process is estimated to take 45 days given the Covid19 situation.

I am surprised that as in the case of Class X, CBSE has not come out with a proposal to evaluate students using objective criteria other than exams. After all, if class X students can be evaluated without board exams the class XII students can also be similarly evaluated.

Some of the things in the proposals of CBSE that it needs to explain are:

  1. How would a 1.5-hour exam reduce the risk of COVID19 infection for the students? After all, the risk of getting infected while travelling to and from the exam center and at the time of entry and exit to the center will remain.
  2. As per news reports, major subject means one language and three elective subjects that is the students will have to appear for 4 out of 5 subjects. That means, a student and the parent will still need to travel to the test center on four occasions.

From a testing standpoint, the 1.5-hour exam will be restricted to MCQs and very short answer questions and hence, in-depth knowledge and understanding will not be tested which is possible in a 3-hour exam. Thus, with almost the same amount of risk of infection, a 1.5-hour exam will be a significant compromise on the academic front.  

Similarly, exam in “major subjects only” does not seem logical to me. After all, it is still 4 out of 5 subjects so why not the 5th subject also?

Also how do you define “major” and “minor” subject? What is defined as a minor subject could be more important for some students and could be the stronger subject for many students who will now be at a disadvantage.

Thus, the 1.5-hour exam only in major subjects looks like a lose-lose on both the fronts – on safety of the child and on academic assessment too.  It might be better for CBSE to either conduct the board exam in the usual format or to cancel the board exams completely. 

The obvious next question is what is the way out?

The best suggestion I have heard is from a student – cancel the class XII board exams, give marks based on performance of pre-boards conducted by schools or any other objective criteria and let the Universities admissions happen based on entrance exams.

This simple solution has many positives:

  1. No risk of COVID infection since students and their parents will not have to travel to exam centers.
  2. Schools do a very strict marking in the pre-boards to push students to study for the board exams. The chances of grade inflation are reduced.  A formula can be worked out to convert the marks in pre-boards to Class XII marks.
  3. Many students will appear for entrance exams like NEET, IIT-JEE, CLAT, IPMAT etc. and they may not be interested in University admission.
  4. CUCET for admission to Central universities has already been announced. NTA is the agency that conducts this exam and could be a golden opportunity to make the CU-CET a nationwide singular exam for all college admissions in 2021 outside of engineering and medicine. These scores can be used by all State and Private Universities also for admission to those academic programs for which there is no admission test. 
  5. The school staff which will conduct the board exam is an important stakeholder and has unfortunately been ignored in the entire discussion. Not only the school staff but also their families will be at risk if the board exams are conducted, they too will be protected under this formula.

The above interventions could go a long way in ensure that the stress and anxiety on the minds of parents and students are alleviated and create an easy and high-quality path forward for a smooth transition from school to college for over a million and a half students across the country.