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Haryana Govt Pushes Class 8 Board Exams, Children's Mental Health At Risk

The government of Haryana plays hardball, passing an order to introduce board exams in grade 8 across all government and private run schools that come under multiple boards. Parents and children are distraught over the decision, claiming children's mental health has no value to the state

In July 2020 the National Education Policy was approved by The Government of India. The purpose of introducing this new policy on education was to allow school systems across India to improve the state of affairs across all government and private schools under their jurisdiction. 


“While the policy is very progressive in nature it provides flexibility to state education departments, SCERTs, and other governmental bodies responsible for education planning and implementation. As a result of this, if the interpretation of the NEP is misunderstood or misrepresented it can result in catastrophic outcomes,” highlights Amitav Virmani Founder & CEO, The Education Alliance, a Delhi based non-profit organization that works with the State Governments of Delhi, TN, Tripura, and MP on reform initiatives related to school education.


Earlier this month the Government of Haryana proposed and passed an order to introduce board exams in grade 8 across all government and private schools located in the state. It mandated that children in grade 8 across ALL government and private run schools that come under multiple boards such as the Haryana State education board, ICSE board, CBSE board, and the IGCSE board would all need to appear in a common board exam developed by the Board of School Education, Haryana.

 

It seems that this decision taken by the Haryana government has been inspired by the National Education Policy 2020 wherein under Section 4 of the policy document titled ‘Transforming Assessment for Student Development’, it categorically states “to track progress throughout the school years and not just at the end of grade 10 and 12 for the benefit of students, parents, teachers, principals and the entire schooling system in planning improvements to schools and teaching-learning processes all students will take school examinations in grades 3, 5 and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority. These examinations would test achievement of basic learning outcomes through assessment of core concepts knowledge from the national and local curricula along with relevant higher-order skills application of knowledge in real-life situations rather than rote memorisation. The grade 3 examination in particular would test basic literacy numeracy and other foundational skills.  The results of school examinations will be used only for developmental purposes of the school education system including for public disclosure by schools of their overall (anonymised) student outcomes and for continuous monitoring and improvement of the schooling system”.


Underscoring this, Amitav says, “This illustrates how horribly wrong this Government has interpreted the intention of the NEP 2020 wherein it is categorically stated that there should be an introduction of Key Stage Assessments (NOT to be interpreted as BOARD EXAMS)  for Grade 3, 5 and 8 conducted by the appropriate authority. The appropriate authority, in my opinion, would be the Board under which the schools operate - ie. ICSE, CBSE and IGCSE and NOT the Haryana Board. While the intention of the NEP 2020 is very clear, unfortunately, the misrepresentation of this provision of the policy by the Haryana Government has not only caused angst and grief among the parent and student bodies of all schools across the state but also put in doubt the ability of this state government to accurately interpret the intentions of the NEP 2020 in all matters related to school and student development.” 


On the heels of this announcement, Manika Sharma, Director, The Shriram School says, “The hurried decision about imposing sudden examinations on grade 8 children, who are all of 13 years old, seems very unreasonable and insensitive. Students haven’t been to school in 2 years, they haven’t met their friends or even put pen to paper in this new online space and now we expect them to face a board examination? Why? What will this do to their mental makeup? Children are very fragile and we should bring them back to a happy, non-intimidating environment, and here we are trying to ‘ test ‘ them? I cannot understand or fathom this. Spare the Children, wait for the aftermath of this pandemic to settle, talk to the educators, ask what it is we need to do, ask the counsellors, the parents, and most importantly the children! Be sensitive.”


Class 8 Shriram Parent, Richa Mehta Menon shared how the parent community has been left completely stumped hearing about this last-minute decision to conduct board exams for Class 8 students for the current academic session of 2021-2022. 


“The children are not equipped mentally, emotionally, or academically to handle this last-minute change. What is even more disturbing is the fact that a child who studies in a school that is affiliated to the ICSE/IG board is now being asked to appear for an exam that follows the NCERT curriculum. It is like asking a student who has spent an entire year studying for his CBSE 10th standard board exam to suddenly come up to speed and now, in two weeks' time, get ready to give his exam based on a completely different curriculum. Is this our idea of education? Is this how we want to bridge the learning gap? Our children are not robots that only data needs to be fed into them. Our main focus should be on settling them back into normalcy. They have shown tremendous resilience so far, let us not cripple their spirits and test their resolve any further,“ she says.


“They are now giving their first exams in school. They are anxious, under stress and unsure. The Haryana Government now wants them to further study, and give another exam from a completely different syllabus within a month. I ask you, would any sane adult, let alone a child of only 13 years be able to manage such a task without deteriorating one's mental and emotional health? All over the world, schools, education boards, psychologists are telling parents and education centres to go easy on children, and here we are bringing hell upon them. Why disregard and throw away the education system which has been prevalent in these schools? Does the government feel that their exams, assessments, etc aren't up to mark or have no weightage in their eyes?” says Surabhi Tuli, also a class 8 Shriram parent.


Harvard educated Amreen Sekhon, Doctorate in Psychology, Counsellor, and Psychologist at a renowned CIS accredited school says the children have suffered the most in the midst of the pandemic. "Their social skills have further deteriorated. They are facing emotional issues. Grief, uncertainty, social isolation, fear, increased screen time on a daily basis has affected the mental health of children. Friendship, a stabilising force of children has been disrupted. In addition to taking exams in person which is a major transition for children as in the last two years all the teaching and examinations took place online, it was an added source of stress and anxiety for children. Now slowly ambling back to normalcy this week, taking exams in person is overwhelming enough for children and then to learn additional exams for which they are not prepared is in no way a fair assessment. Clearly, the children are not prepared as the information has been given to the parents as well as the children at the last minute. According to Government data in 2020, 31 children died by suicide every day. The prime focus should be catering to their social and emotional skills which have been seriously affected since the pandemic. A real fact check and introspection is required before any decisions are made that could potentially have a grave impact on children's mental wellbeing.”


A real fact check and introspection is truly the need of the hour, instead of the gross misinterpretation of the NEP 2020 framework.


Tags assigned to this article:
Board Exams Grade 8 Government of Haryana development

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