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Option to Opt-Out.

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Evaluate HSC candidates based on internal assessment, and keep an option to appear for the examination once the pandemic wanes.

If Disaster had another pedestrian synonym, it would be the current state of affairs concerning HSC Board Students.

First, came postponement, then came the bombshell.

The former was already a disaster because it seeked to defer Board Exams to keep them right at the cusp of entrance exams, (eg. Law Entrances)

Yes, the fears were allayed to an extent with the CLAT Consortiums’ notification of ‘potential deferment’.

But to no avail.

The next bombshell dropped on the 20th of April, 2021.

It was an implicit affirmation that 12th Standard Boards of Maharashtra, (herefrom referred to as HSC boards 2021) are to happen.

Cancellation of SSC Boards(10th standard) followed suit with CBSE’s decision to cancel their 10th Boards;

Similarly, deferment of CBSE 12th Boards pushed the State Government to follow suit.

Certainly, cancellation of SSC Boards is a welcome decision; but as the adage goes; ‘An exclusionary and ill-informed decision is worse than no decision at all.’ Similarly, Prevarication is more affordable than Perilous Projects.

It would be a gross disservice to the legitimate aspirations and the will of the student community at large if the sheer fallaciousness in the logic behind this myopic and ill-informed pronouncement is not scriunitized.

You see, Postponement of HSC Boards sine die with keeping the SSC Boards intact is counterproductive at best, and grossly disastrous at worst.

My argument rests on two simple planks.

Firstly, if the logic of the government behind not keeping an option to give HSC Boards is to ‘secure the future’ of 12th graders, then nothing could be farther from the truth.

The crux of counterproductivity is very simple.

You see, Maharashtra is a unique state when it comes to the 10+2 pattern.

It is one of the very few places in the country where there exist Junior Colleges to admit matriculated students.

Now, almost everyone, computable to 99% of the SSC Candidates choose to stay in the state for their +2 pedagogy, which means that almost everyone banks on their Matriculation Marks in order to get admission in prestigious Junior Colleges.

As opposed to this, it takes neither statistics nor empirical data to conclude that HSC candidates who solely bank on 12th grade marks are significantly lower than SSC candidates who do so. (Around 15.7 lakh SSC candidates appeared for the exam even during the pandemic last year; As opposed to this only 3.38 lakh HSC candidates, which a fifth of SSC students, appeared last year even when the exam was in pre pandemic times!)

The statistics speak for themselves; even from the 3.38 lakh, a substantial amount of students opt for entrances where Board marks matter little.

I’m not at all against the cancellation of SSC Boards per se, but what I’m definitely resentful and vehemently opposed to, is the counterproductivity in the decision making process- where clearly SSC Students are disproportionately more affected than HSC Students, when it comes to ‘securing their future’.

The Second Plank of my argument rests on the following;

Now let’s explore the thinking behind the deferment of HSC Boards.

Another fact which bolsters my argument is that according to certain reports, premier institutions who used to accept and evaluate candidates based on 12th Board Marks are now taking a turn for the better, by implementing the National Education Policy. [DU is a case in point.]

Instead of solely evaluating students based on an anachronistic exam which boils down the students’ 12 years of schooling to out-of-date questions and syllabus, these premier institutions have now increased the weightage of assessment to interviews, CV and Extra-curriculars of the Pupil, rendering Boards less important.

Which brings me to my next point, that if Board Exams are losing their importance by the day, especially after the promulgation of the NEP 2020, why then is the State Government hell-bent on undertaking Board Exams amidst the biggest public health crisis of the century, not to mention amidst a Pandemic of Mental Health!

My exhortation of the Mental Health Pandemic is not a conjecture but rather an informed conclusion from the current state of affairs in the State, where COVID-19 is at its high noon, rife with peril, where there have been student protests, public expressions of students’ anguish at its worst, and even (contestable) reports of students suicides due to unabated pressureAre we to remain in denial of the legitimate aspirations and core interests of the Student

Community?

The Way forward

Evaluate HSC candidates based on internal assessment, and keep an option to appear for the examination once the pandemic wanes.

This way those set of students who require HSC marks for Undergraduate Admissions may wish to appear for the exam.

  • The Entrance takers would be in utopia should this decision of providing an option be expeditiously announced, they would be objectively evaluated based on internal assessment- and if the outcome of this evaluation does not satisfy the expectations of these students, they can always appear for the exam if and when it is conducted. (Keeping the HSC marks column vacant in entrance applications is allowed so there is no hurdle on that front either)
  • Keeping an option will also comprehensively allay the concerns of those who have expressed their apprehensions regarding cancellation on the grounds that it appears to be doing injustice to the hard-working students. These students can always validate their efforts by choosing the option of giving the exam.
  • Lets not forget, CBSE has given an option to those 10th standard students who are not satisfied with the ‘objective assessment’ to write the exam offline once the situation is conducive. So, what is stopping the State Authorities of Maharashtra from emulating this win-win model?
  • This decision, in my opinion, would be in the interest of all parties; more importantly it will liberate Entrance-takers from anxiety of a looming sword over their necks, divesting time off of their entrance preparation.
  • In all probability, There is a higher chance of an Elephant passing through a hole of a needle than Board exams not affecting the Preparation of Entrance takers.
  • Another option could be conducting HSC Boards online for all, but this process is mired in exclusivity owing to the disproportionate access to the internet and the requisite infrastructure to a few in order to appear for the exam.

So, finally it trickles down to one question; Why must the equally hard-working Entrance takers suffer when there are practical, win-win alternatives available?

Last but not the least, It is equally important for the government to declare the option as early as possible, since that would enable us, the students, to monomaniacally focus on acing entrance exams.

It would then serve no purpose to declare the option at the 11th hour, thus catalyzing the decision making process is a must.

Hence, I, a well wisher of all kinds of students, including those who are earnestly making efforts to ‘Methodise this Madness’ regarding the competitiveness of Entrance Exams- beseechingly implore the State Government Authorities to absolve anxiety, mental pressure and liberate us, the anguished souls of the State of Maharashtra.

Malhar Satav – Writer Bharat Bhagya Vidhatha

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