How The Cancellation Of Class 12th Board Examination Will Impact The Future Of The Students

The education sector has gone through deep structural changes this year. While classroom teaching has changed dramatically (and we will come to that in due course), the most wide-ranging immediate impact has been on our system of assessment and examination. The CBSE board exams, once considered sacrosanct, now stand cancelled. Many state boards have followed suit. While the government rightly prioritized student safety in its decision to cancel the exam, we must examine the likely repercussions of the decision on the students and, where possible, how to mitigate the negative impact.

The cancellation of board exams affects the entry into some undergraduate courses more than other courses. There is a well-defined structure of competitive exams at the state and national level in place for engineering and medical courses. Students pursuing these streams are firmly in control of their future. Their performance in the exams such as JEE, NEET and other Common Entrance Tests will determine their entry into a university of their choice. Students who wish to pursue non-STEM courses such as Arts or Humanities face a lot of uncertainty. Universities such as Madras University, Delhi University and many others rely heavily on the marks scored in the Board Examination to grant admission. The cancellation of these examinations now puts the onus on the Universities to start expanding the criteria for their selection process such as looking at the overall profile of the student, seeing the historical academic performance, and even consider introducing entrance examinations for admissions. However, the lack of a clear admission criterion and universities’ differing admissions process may lead to confusion and lack of transparency. An announcement from universities on a clear and transparent admissions process will go a long way in easing students’ anxiety.

Board Exam results also act as a metric for disbursing scholarships to students. In the absence of this, students in dire need of scholarships may not be able to access it. Universities, NGO’s and other Trusts will find it difficult to identify the right candidates for their scholarship awards. There is a need to develop a more robust framework beyond exam results for awarding scholarships. 

The decision will also affect students who want to go abroad to pursue their higher studies. There are three key metrics for students planning to go abroad to pursue higher education – SAT, Board Exam results, Overall profile. Most International universities have waived off SAT scores due to the pandemic. With Board Examinations cancelled, Indian students are at a disadvantage to students from countries where 12th standard examinations were conducted. This will hamper the chances of the students getting admissions into their university of choice. It may lead to an increase in the applications, as students will try to have backup options. While many will be able to gain admission at foreign universities, some students may also decide to take a gap year if their preferred university has not modified its criterion for admissions. A gap year comes with its own adverse effects since students may lose drive and focus unless they find ways to spend their time productively. Parents need to be wary of this and be proactive in helping their child plan for the gap year.

While we face extraordinary circumstances this year and there will inevitably be some confusion for entry into universities, this is also an opportunity for state governments and schools to move quickly towards adopting NEP 2020, as it has always emphasized a holistic way of assessment, in turn reducing the dependency on Board Examinations. In the long term, this will help in finding a better fit between students and universities and make the transition from school to university as smooth as possible. 

Beyond examinations, technology has enabled learning to continue during the pandemic. While this is a big positive, some aspects of a student’s development remain unaddressed. Healthy growth and development, particularly of pre-primary and primary students, has slowed down due to a lack of physical classrooms. The development of social skills (interaction, sharing, empathy) and language and speech (pronunciation, diction) have been impeded. Furthermore, lack of physical activity, interaction with friends, new experiences and unstructured playtime has affected students’ mood regulation, enthusiasm and ability to focus and learn. Effective Learning requires constant feedback from teachers and peers. This feedback loop helps students constantly update their understanding. This feedback can be verbal or non-verbal. Most of the non-verbal cues are missing in an online classroom and verbal cues are limited. Yet, there is no cause for alarm. These effects are temporary and reversible. Once schools physically reopen, students will be able to catch up and get back on track. The process of returning to school and routine will be quite smooth for students. They are quick to adapt to change and will reintegrate with relative ease. 

A positive we can draw from the pandemic is that it has lowered the hesitation among teachers to use technology. Teachers are now comfortable in its use and recognize the potential of using technology to augment classroom teaching. Over the course of this year, educators have had an opportunity to understand where technology can help in the learning process. It helps teachers schedule, optimises instruction, create focused practice sessions, inter-section and inter-class collaboration, introduces new concepts outside of school hours, hold doubt solving sessions etc. Teachers can utilize technology to simplify concepts and cater to the exact needs of their students. Going forward, being adept at the use of technology will be a necessary prerequisite to becoming a successful teacher.  

In sum, while it has been a challenging year for education, it has also forced educators to think deeply on the fundamentals of learning and assessment. It has also led to the rapid development of technological tools to aid learning. As we slowly step out of this Pandemic, these learnings and advances will pave the way for more relevant learning frameworks, better-skilled teachers, more engaged learners and positive learning outcomes.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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