COVID-19 has impacted each one and education too has been a victim of the pandemic. Due to the rising cases of coronavirus COVID-19 across the country, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) cancelled and postponed the Class 10 and Class 12 Board examinations, respectively. Soon after many states boards like UP Board, Gujarat, etc., have either postponed or cancelled the examinations. The Indian School Certificate Examinations too followed suit and announced postponement of Class 10 ICSE and Class 12 ISC board examinations considering the rising coronavirus cases.
The postponement and cancellation of exams has impacted and disturbed the entire education system. The experts from colleges and universities share their viewpoints. Sahil Aggarwal, CEO & Co-Founder, Rishihood University said that “The indefinite change in the schedule of the board exams is posing a challenge to students, parents, and institutions alike. In 2020, when the pandemic created a similar situation, the timelines went haywire. The exams and accordingly the results were severely delayed. Students were able to start their higher education as late as November, compared to the usual commencement in July or August. A Deja Vu is looming on us. Not just the students graduating this year, some of those who cleared class 12th last year are out of college because they could not get a timely decision about their admission.
There are immediate as well as structural changes that we need to consider. In the short term, our universities should amend their admission process for this year to reduce the dependence on the grade 12th boards. The alternate metric to judge a student’s ability is grade 10th scores, interviews, and aptitude tests. There are several aptitude tests available that are reliable. The tests can be conducted at home in a proctored setting.”
Few colleges like Rishihood University, are analyzing admission applications based on grade 10 scores and online interviews. The board exams, whenever they happen, will be recorded as a document as per the government regulations.
Prof Sandeep Sancheti, Provost, Marwadi University Rajkot & Past President, Association of Indian Universities (AIU) New Delhi said that the shockwave of the COVID-19 calamity on education has been unprecedented. And yet, the education community has proved resilient, laying the groundwork for the rebound. “As the health crisis unfolds, causing massive socio-economic disruptions, education systems around the world have swiftly reacted and adapted to the new normal. In fact, to some extent, COVID-19 has accelerated the use of digital technologies to deliver education and adoption of new methods of examination. Today, as we look at the government’s decision for mass promotion of students to the next semester or level through the prism – this decision is not only necessary but also sensible. In a way, this verdict comes as a relief to millions of students who were stressed out under the cloud of uncertainty. On the flip side, admissions may be delayed like last year and students aspiring for admissions to top schools in Medicine, Engineering, Architecture, and Law programmes may be facing disappointment and unpredictability, but School board examinations would find a new lease of life as they may become a firm basis for admission to many higher education institutions. Similarly, the pan India interest and competition for admission would take a hit but in turn the state or region-specific admissions may gain in numbers,” he said.
“It has been such a roller coaster for the higher education space in the last one year. In these uncertain times, the educational institutions should be determined to make sure that the students don’t miss out on any learning opportunities. We should encourage early admissions for students based on their 10th and 11th score. Also, at many institutions, admissions process can be based on their online entrance examinations which could serve as an alluring metric to test-student’s aptitude, GK and subject knowledge. Projections based on the 10th and 11th score, can give insurance to the student from dicey 12th board exam and results situation. This early admission process can minimize the uncertainties of 12th board examinations. The delay in result declaration of boards also mean late commencement of new batches, but for the students who enrolled early, the time can be utilized to the fullest as these early admits could get access to the coveted resources and tech platform of the universities, so that they can start the process of learning and discover new avenues of knowledge,” Dr. Sandeep Shastri, Vice Chancellor, Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal said.
While the learning is a never-ending quest, and the assessment and evaluation are significant milestones of a student’s journey. Unless the students are adequately assessed and evaluated, the learning outcomes of teaching cannot be sufficiently accomplished and ascertained – because such tests ethically, epistemologically, and statutorily bind students in an uncompromising commitment to learning, fulfil the set criteria, and acquire necessary knowledge outlined in the curriculum to meet the required social and industry standards. Without this, the teaching-learning process becomes rudderless and student’s commitment towards learning is rendered entirely personal rather than obligatory in nature. But unprecedented events linked to pandemic have called for this unusual pronouncement of cancelling or deferment of examinations. Some adverse impacts, which are not immediately visible, are unfortunately significant and will surface in the medium and long term. Hence the concern at this juncture should not be to crib about it but be focused on the road ahead to mitigate them to the extent possible.
“We are the citizens of a dynamic world and with the experience gained from last more than one year, we can be preparing ourselves to overcome any such eventualities by adopting newer schedules or methods of competitive assessment like advancing such examinations by 6-8 months – i.e. conducting them during the end of previous calendar year for admissions in a given academic year, or by adopting a set of newer methods of continuous evaluation as well as using well-founded methods of normalisation of marks across the boards to prepare merit lists. In conclusion, it is never too late, we can still look forward to developing many novel and innovative methods that will pave better ways for unhindered assessments and evaluations,” added Prof Sandeep Sancheti, Provost, Marwadi University Rajkot & Past President, Association of Indian Universities (AIU) New Delhi
There are some institutes where a national level competitive exam or a board exam score is necessary to select the admitted students out of a large pool of applicants. Barring those, most universities and colleges can admit the students based on the available data of students’ records, online aptitude tests, and interviews.
Sahil Aggarwal, CEO & Co-Founder, Rishihood University added “The long-term issue is to design a testing structure that is not so heavily impacted by external circumstances. This means schools and colleges should autonomously conduct tests, and that in a continuation evaluation style. CBSE already encourages it but it doesn’t apply to grade 12. Fortunately, the new National Education Policy is talking of standardized tests for university admissions. These tests will be computerized, and the students can select a testing slot based on their schedule. Such tests will reduce the logistic effort and contingency planning of the testing organizations as well as the institutes. The universities can add their own criteria over and above the test scores. Most of the top universities globally are following this method of admissions. In India too, this is the long-term solution for which we have to start acting today.”
The students should start their higher education as soon as possible without going through the mental stress of admissions during and after their board exams. If this situation prevails, we will have a group of students who are not attending college and it will impact their rest of the career, including job placements.