Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, over one lakh students of classes 10 and 12 have signed petitions urging the government to either cancel board exams scheduled to be held in May or conduct them in online mode. The hashtag "cancelboardexams2021" has been trending on Twitter for the past two days.
However, both the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) have said that adequate safety arrangements are being made for students and all COVID-19 guidelines will be followed during the exams.
"Adequate arrangements are being made to ensure the students are safe and all COVID protocols are followed. The number of exam centres has been increased by 40-50 per cent to ensure social distancing. The staff at exam centres is being sensitised to ensure all guidelines are followed," a senior CBSE official told news agency Press Trust of India.
"The situation in India is getting worse day by day. When there were only a few cases in the country, they cancelled the remaining board exams and now when the cases are at a peak they are planning to open schools. We urge the education minister to look into this matter and cancel all examinations to be held this year as students are already under a lot of stress," a petition on Change.org said.
Divya Garg, a class 10 student, on Twitter urged the government to postpone the exams for at least a month and then take a further review based on the number of cases. "The students have already faced a lot of problems till now in this pandemic. Classes were held online so the exams should also be held online or students should be promoted via internal assessment marks," another user tweeted.
Usually, practical exams are conducted in January and written exams begin in February and conclude in March. However, the exams were delayed and are scheduled to be held in May-June in view of the pandemic.
"Adequate arrangements are being made to ensure the students are safe and all COVID protocols are followed. The number of exam centres has been increased by 40-50 per cent to ensure social distancing. The staff at exam centres is being sensitised to ensure all guidelines are followed," a senior CBSE official said.
The board had last week announced that if any student fails to appear for ongoing practical exams after the student or any family member testing positive, the schools will conduct re-tests for them at an appropriate time. The official, however, did not comment on whether the same relaxation will be given to students in theory exams as well.
Similarly, Gerry Arathoon, the chief executive and secretary at CISCE, said the schedule for exams "will remain the same". Schools across the country were closed in March last year to contain the spread of COVID-19 ahead of a nationwide lockdown. Several states started reopening the schools partially from October last year, but physical classes are again being suspended in view of the exponential rise in coronavirus cases.
Last year, the board exams had to be postponed mid-way in March. They were later cancelled and the results were announced on the basis of an alternative assessment scheme. Both the CBSE and CISCE had decided not to come up with a merit list last year.
India registered a record single-day spike of 1,26,789 new COVID-19 cases, pushing its infection tally to 1,29,28,574, while the number of active cases too went upwards to breach the nine lakh-mark again, the Union Health Ministry's data updated on Thursday showed.
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