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Class 12 boards aren’t worth the public health risks. Focus instead on college admissions

The ball is in the Centre’s court with a decision on conducting CBSE Class 12 examinations keenly awaited following deliberations with state governments. Union education ministry must firmly decide against scheduling these exams. In the best of times, the utility of obsessing over Class 12 marks has faced vigorous scrutiny amid college admission cutoffs overshooting all credible limits. Now, when public safety has forced the costly shutting down of workplaces, factories, schools, markets and non-essential services, conducting exams without commensurate benefits is mindless.

Exposing unvaccinated students to the virus in indoor settings over a prolonged period risks setting off too many disease clusters. Over 1.2 crore students are enrolled nationally in Class 12 every year: A scattered congregation of this big number is enough to recall the damage done by political and religious gatherings this summer. States demanding inclusion of 17-year-olds in the vaccination drive lack enough doses even for the 18-plus age group in the foreseeable future. Class 12 students have grappled with the uncertainties since January, by when exam schedules are usually announced. The indecision isn’t helping preparations or in easing their turmoil.

CBSE is also considering prior internal evaluations to grade students. Obviously, this can skew the field if grading yardsticks differ greatly between schools, or if schools pass on inflated marklists to CBSE. Using these results to evaluate higher education prospects of students would be unfair. Public universities like DU must move fast to replicate the rigorous assessments like online admission tests and interviews devised by private universities. Kicking the can down the road on such capacity expansion could lead to a situation akin to the current vaccine impasse where demand is high and supply is riddled with shortages and confusion.

Students have struggled in pre-pandemic times with preferred colleges making late admission decisions forcing them to weigh the inferior options. The situation could be aggravated manifold this year unless admission procedures are streamlined in advance. Alternatively, students unprepared for higher education this year deserve the flexibility to take board exams next year. Centre’s decision will have a ripple effect on the ISC and state boards. All these students deserve a level playing field. Entering the portals of higher education is a testing phase for students. Centre and state governments are on test too: Can they ensure a just, safe, glitch-free promotion of students to college education?



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This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.



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