Mamata Banerjee at Nabanna on Monday.
Bengal’s higher secondary and secondary (Madhyamik) exams won’t be held in 2021 because of Covid, chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced on Monday.
She asked the exam-conducting bodies to come up with an assessment methodology at the earliest so students of the Bengal board do not lose out to their peers from the CBSE and the ISC board while competing for higher studies.
“We have decided to cancel Madhyamik and the higher secondary exams this year following a recommendation of the expert committee and public opinion. The higher secondary council, the secondary education board and the education minister will work out the details of evaluation and inform the students in the next seven days,” the chief minister said in Nabanna.
“You should keep an eye on what the CBSE is doing…. Whatever you do must be a time-bound exercise. The evaluation of CBSE Class XII students and higher secondary students must take place at the same time. It has to be ensured that our students can compete while pursuing higher education and in any competitive exams. Therefore the evaluation has to be completed at the earliest.”
The state government had last Tuesday constituted a six-member expert committee to decide whether the secondary and higher secondary exams would be held this year. The panel was formed after the CBSE and the ICSE council cancelled their school-leaving exams because of the surge in Covid cases.
Members of the committee had hinted that they were against holding the exams on campus because of Covid. They had also ruled out the possibility of conducting the test on digital platforms because a large number of students did not have access to computers or the internet.
The chief minister said the overwhelming majority of the parents, students and the public in general were against conducting exams at schools.
The state government received as many as 34,000 responses in a day after they sought people’s opinion on whether and how the secondary and higher secondary exams should be conducted this year.
An official of the school education department said Mamata had asked the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education to come up with evaluation parameters in a week.
The Supreme Court had on June 3 given the Centre two weeks’ time to come up with “well-defined objective criteria” for the assessment of Class XII students of the CBSE and the ICSE council.
Mamata wants the HS council to announce the criteria before the CBSE and the ICSE council.
“The chief minister is aware that if the HS council delays announcing the methodology of assessment, the Class XII students from the Bengal board will lose out to those from the Delhi boards while competing for slots in premier colleges in Bengal and outside. The coveted institutions won’t wait for long to announce the admission criteria. Any delay by the Bengal board would mean the seats would be snapped up by students from the Delhi boards,” he said.
The task of working out the assessment methodology for the Bengal board students is fraught with challenges.
While the CBSE and the ICSE council have records of internal assessment of their Class XII students conducted over digital platforms, the HS council has only minuscule data as far as any form of assessment is concerned.
“Holding internal tests on digital platforms for the students of the Bengal board was not possible because of a widespread digital divide. HS students from science streams have only appeared in practical tests of 30 marks and students from other streams submitted project work of 20 marks. So the task of evaluation is more challenging, but then it has to be a time-bound exercise,” the official said.
The chief minister advised the presidents of the secondary education board and the higher secondary council to look into suggestions contained in the public opinion related to evaluations.
An official of the school education department said the HS council was looking at the recommendation for assessing the students through the models of home assignment or open-book exams made by the expert committee.
The committee has proposed the possibility of sending questions to the examinees’ home and fetching the answer sheets from there.
“Now the council in consultation with the school edu-cation department would have to decide whether this is possible as far as logistics are concerned. HS examinees total 10 lakh. If the public suggests any suitable model, that will be explored. If needed, the expert committee can again be approached,’’ said the official.
The West Bengal Board of Madrasah Education has cancelled its Class X and XII board exams because of the pandemic. An alternative evaluation method will be announced soon, said a board official.