The Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) has recommended the Maharashtra state government to hold class X – secondary school certificate (SSC) and class XII – higher secondary certificate (HSC) board exams scheduled in February-March 2022 for academic year 2021-22 in offline mode.
Board exams for both SSC and HSC were either cut short or cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic induced lockdowns in academic years 2019-20 and 2020-21. However, following recommendations from the government’s own COVID management task force, schools and colleges were allowed conditional reopening for classes VIII to XII from October 4. With the current government norms allowing students the option of attending online classes instead of attending in-class sessions, schools have recorded 70 plus attendance while colleges have recorded less than 50 percent poor student attendance. However, both schools and colleges are expecting a full class from January onwards.
“Right now, student attendance is really low, hardly 20 percent because even as fewer COVID cases are being reported, many parents still remain worried and prefer their wards to take online classes. Also, a lot of out-of-town students are likely to attend regular classes in the new year. We expect the attendance to surge from January onwards. However, irrespective of the attendance, we would like to see class XII board exams being taken in pen and paper mode. While conducting online exams was not a problem, monitoring tech-savvy students during the exam has been a problem. I also believe, evaluation through online exams makes it easy to score higher marks and is unfair to deserving students who work hard,” says Dr Minu Madlani, Principal, KPB Hinduja College of Commerce, Mumbai.
For the academic year 2020-21, HSC students were evaluated on the basis of their scores in college-based assessments in class XII and class XI exams as well as the best three performing subjects in class X board exams. However, the online multiple-choice questions (MCQ) and the new assessment method resulted in most students scoring more than they would have if writing their exams in the pen and paper mode. Similar issues were faced by class X students too who were evaluated on the basis of their class IX and class X internal marks with 50 percent weightage given to each. Thus school principals have been pushing for offline class X board exams this year.
“Class X students were prepared to write their exams at the centres last year too, but the second wave of COVID forced the government to change plans and shift to online exams. However, the marks obtained under the online system are not reliable and we need to ensure that exams are normalised at the earliest. Since reopening, most schools have conducted a unit test and the first-semester exam too. They will also have enough time to complete their syllabus for the current academic year (2021-22) in time. The government must finalise its policy regarding board exams and announce its decision as early as possible to ensure children start their preparations accordingly. We cannot afford another year without written exams. In the absence of exams being conducted the regular way in 2020-21, we can’t fall back on last year’s data anymore as there is no reliable data to do that,” says Mahendra Ganpule, spokesperson and former president, Maharashtra Principals Association.
The written board exams will revert to the earlier paper pattern of having long and short questions instead of the MCQ format used in online exams. Earlier the state’s education minister, Varsha Gaikwad held an online meeting (on October 23) with senior officials of the education department and select school and college principals who shared their feedback on conducting offline board exams.
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