The class 12 examination for a majority of students is a graduating exam from schools holding immense prestige and emotional value and is the first major milestone of their life—as they leave school system and enter higher education or directly into real world of jobs. While it is the ‘final’ test to assess 12 years of academic achievements of schooling , and therefore also a decider for future course of academic life and career choice for individual students, for the society, it serves as a critical filter for needs of future human capital. So, naturally holding and conducting this standardized examination is very critical for the objectives it serves.
The new mutant variants of Coronavirus seen largely responsible for the deadly second wave of covid pandemic in India and the exploding deluge of cases from March to May this year that claimed more lives (>1.70 lakh) than in the entire year of 2020, also jeopardized dream of writing board exams for more than 1.20 million class 12 students in the country. And, given the pressure of the exam and distress in homes and streets, authorities wisely listened to voices of students and parents and cancelled these without prolonging the dilemma.
With the outbreak of Covid pandemic in the spring of 2020, all schools in India were declared closed and now after more than a year barring some sunny days(Jan-Feb this year), the sad story of schools closures continues. This meant that most of the teaching/learning happened online and there is a broader agreement that no matter how good the enabling streaming technologies are, there is no substitute for immersive classroom and on campus education. And, again the equity question grows bigger with online arrangement.
So, the assessment schemes as have come to fore and accepted, is a special version of CCE. The ICSE will evaluate the performance (scores) of students for past six years, the CBSE for past three. And, given the situation, scrutiny and pressure, the schemes look fair. A lot of students, who tend to become more serious towards studies to score more in class 12 as they enter the class itself, didn’t like the idea as they were preparing for it like anything. And, more than this number are happy that it was a good riddance. And, still a third category of students, who hadn’t access to classes or quality teaching and faced pandemic challenges and were ill-prepared, see this as a justice done.
In fairness of things, the situation this year is unprecedented and therefore a compromise must be accepted. But how will be these lessons remembered in future needs a discussion. A lot of universities now in India are moving beyond the class 12 scores to a regime of admission practiced in the developed countries. Holistic evaluation based on scores plus community projects, skills, co-curricular etc. The common entrance test for colleges as said in the National Education Policy 2020, after its implementation, will result in a paradigm shift. And, a good measure, of course.
That brings a spotlight on how will class 12 exams move in future. There has to be a reimagination of sorts. It has to be robust and eliminate practices that have given exams a bad name by way of putting pressure on students and running them emotionally.
And last thoughts about more than 9346 children, who have either lost both parents and one of them and some have been abandoned, need institutional as well as societal support.