Class 12th Board exam students could be next potential super spreader?

On Sunday, Ministry of Education MoE chaired a high-level meeting with other Union Ministers, along with state secretaries on modalities of conducting Class 12th Board Examinations. Any final decision for conduction of board exams is due till 1st June, as states governments are to make any new suggestions.

India has been victimised with an explosion of COVID-19 cases, devastating the country’s health care and overwhelming people’s hopes of survival, serving a harsh lesson to all the citizens, as some promoted and participated in mass gathering. So, to share the burden of mapping class 12th Board exams, CBSE made two suggestions to the Union Ministry. First: to conduct examinations in August, for only major subjects at designated centres with regular format, with regular duration of 180 minutes, to be used in assessment scheme, for grading of minor subjects, included. Second: shifting to Multiple Choice and Short Answer Type questions, reducing duration of examination to 90 minutes and it should be conducted in two phases over July and August. Excluding Delhi and Maharashtra, all the other states have taken consideration to second suggestion of CBSE, although, Delhi and Maharashtra have been eminently demanding scrapping of the board exams.

No matter what the ministry decides, the fate of the students, their examiners and parents, will be put up at risk, for distinctive reasons. Whatever methodology the ministry decides for regulating the board exams, both will require attendance of the students at the indoor exam hall, compromising their health by exposing them to the virus. Infact, the new guidelines from the Principal Scientist Adviser office state that, aerosols can transmit the virus within 10 meters. Many parents will use public transports, to drop their ward to the exam centre and will congregate outside the centre along with other parents, again devising a scenario of an easy and swift transmission of the disease, just as Mahakumbh 2021. Coherently, as maximum of class 12th Board students fall under the age of 18, they neither vaccinated nor can be, since they fall out of eligibility criteria, and many ward’s parents too shall have not received their jab, due to nation facing shortage of vaccines. Meanwhile, one state have been demanding vaccines for board students, if it will have to conduct board exams. These reasons are enough, for acknowledging the predominant hit of virus amongst students, converting them from school goers to potential super spreaders, Experts worry that these exams will likely speculate the third wave in the country.

Schools are also facing tough time, whilst juggling between two batches of 12th students, as the batch 2021 has remained in the same class for 18 months, i.e., from March 2020 to July 2021 (only if the exams are held then, with the results to be declared on August). The delay in exam, has also put on hold to the future prospects of the students, fabricating more of anxiety within them, with each passing day. Further study engagements of students have been limited with constant setback in the dates of the exams. The only way out of this crisis was to conduct the board exam during early February to mid of March, but the government chose to risk the future of the nation, by choosing state elections over students.

The government must scrap the class 12th Board exams and evaluate students score on the basis of internal assessment of class 11th and 12th performance, including all unit tests, term exams, pre-boards exams results. The government should focus on alternative methodology of evaluating the results, as it is high time for batch 2021 to move to the next phase of their lives. But whatever the government decides, it should decide swiftly, keeping in aspects the possibilities of third wave, citing priorities of lives over exams.

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