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The fate of class XIIth Board exams still undecided; Supreme Court adjourns the hearing again till 3rd June 2021

The decision regarding holding class 12th exams for students of the CBSE Board is still a few days away, as the honourable Supreme Court has once again adjourned the hearing for 2 days. The matter will be heard by the apex court on June 3. 

Since the past few weeks, detailed discussions have been happening in online meetings in New Delhi on the matter, involving the Education Ministry, top members of the union cabinet, education ministers from different states and the representatives of CBSE. The Ministry of Education, which has already announced the cancellation of class Xth board exams in view of the pandemic, is yet to take a final call on whether to conduct any exam for class XIIth or not. The Central Government has already asked for their feedback on the matter, and most of them are replying in favour of holding the exams but with some necessary changes, as proposed by NCERT and CBSE.

The proposed changes to the exam pattern and the feedback of states:

An important high-level virtual meeting was chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on 23rd May to discuss the conduct of the CBSE Class 12 Board Exam 2021. The meeting was attended by Union ministers Smriti Irani, Prakash Javadekar and several other senior high officials. Post-meeting, the Education Ministry had sought the views of state governments by May 25 on the following two options:

1) to conduct the Class 12 students of a few major subjects and mark them on the rest based on how they do in these subjects. 

2) to conduct exams in schools and change the exam pattern to one that has only objective questions and lasts just one-and-a-half hours instead of three.

Considering the inputs of state governments on the above options, a final decision is expected to be taken in the 1st week of June 2021.

Many states are in favour of conducting Class XIIth exams, in whatever way the Union Ministry for Education decides. States like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujrat have shown intentions for conducting exams for CBSE as well as their own state boards, whenever the situation feels appropriate in the coming months.

Karnataka’s School Education Minister S. Suresh Kumar said that as Class 12 students would be seeking admission to professional courses, holding examinations seemed inevitable and after the COVID-19 situation eases, some form of the simplified examination process will be necessary. Further, he said that question papers for a simplified examination had already been prepared in the state, and the number of examination centres were being increased for the conduct of a safe examination. However, with regard to the CBSE, the State simply indicated that it would follow whatever decision was taken by the Central government, the Hindu reported. 

Similarly, according to reports in the media, the state governments of Kerala and Uttar Pradesh have also shown their support for any decision that the central government takes in the matter of exams, and that they would follow whatever the Education Ministry decides.

Apart from this, the state governments of Jharkhand and Delhi have voiced their opinions against holding exams, owing to the current situation caused by the pandemic. Chief Minister of Jharkhand Hemant Soren expressed his reservations regarding the conduct of board exams in Jharkhand. After attending the central government’s meeting on the issue, Soren said-

 “If the suggestions received from the stakeholders are considered, there is a consensus on the postponement of the examination. People feel that maintaining social distance will not be possible if the exams are conducted and children can get infected”.

Delhi Government has also said that it is not in favour of conducting exams in the current situation. Speaking at a press conference, Deputy CM of Delhi and the state’s education minister Manish Sisodiya said –

“Two options were discussed at the meeting. The first was conducting the exams in the present format for the major subjects and marking for the rest of the subjects on the basis of the performance in these papers.

“The second was having the exams in the students’ home schools, reducing the duration and changing the exam pattern. The Delhi government is not in favour of these options. We cannot play with the safety of students just to fulfil our stubborn wishes.”

He further added-  “Conducting the examination by toying with students’ safety will prove to be a big mistake. First vaccine, then exams. There are over 1.5 crore Class-12 students across the country and 95 per cent of them are above the age of seventeen-and-a-half years. The Centre should talk to experts if they can be given the Covishield or Covaxin vaccines. The Centre 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.”

Plea in the Supreme Court demanding the cancellation of Exams

A PIL was filed by Advocate Mamta Sharma asking for directions to the Centre, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) to cancel the CBSE and ICSE class 12 examinations, came up for hearing before the Supreme Court on May 28th, where the Court had adjourned the hearing up till 31st May, after noting that Sharma has not served an advanced copy on the standing counsel for the CBSE.

The court was listening to the matter once again on 31st May, where Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench that the government will be taking a final decision within the next two days on whether to conduct class 12 board exams amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Following this, the Supreme Court has once again adjourned the hearing and will take up the matter again on 1st June.

While all of this discussion on the board exams is taking place in the country, students once again made #cancelboardexam2021 trending on Twitter, demanding a complete do-away with the physical mode of exams, and going for some alternate evaluation method. But the final say on the matter remains with the government which will be giving out its decision in days to come.

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