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Academic quandary

Academic quandary
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The surge in cases notwithstanding the recoveries delineates the reluctance to conduct examinations altogether be it university, board exams or entrance tests. April-May estimates have gone down the drain as July no more appears to be conducive for conducting the pending exams. In fact, it has become, if it was not already, difficult to estimate a period comfortable for completing the disrupted academic calendar. While students remain in limbo, the authority itself appears to be stuck in a conundrum. CBSE yesterday deferred from responding on the matter, taking an additional two days to arrive at a consensus over the fate of pending examinations. It is now scheduled to inform the Supreme Court of its decision by Thursday following which the latter will take the final call. CBSE's problem is unique in the sense that most of the state boards have successfully completed their board examinations and appear to be in line with the beginning of college admissions. Delaying exams beyond the July period earmarked by the Central Board in May would be troublesome for CBSE students as it would be detrimental to their college prospects. In such circumstances, the alternative strategy to assess students on the basis of internal marks and already conducted exams with the option to write the pending papers in order to improve their score later this year appears more likely. Such alternatives, viewed from different perspectives, do underline shortfalls for some students. However, neither time nor space permits CBSE to conduct exams. The pandemic only makes things more uncertain. And, the uncertainty is not just for the board exams that were scheduled between July 1 to 15 but also for the entrance exams scheduled for end July. Estimates show that Delhi's situation is set to get worse with an exponential rise in cases. In such dire circumstances, conducting entrance exams would be detrimental to public health, risking students and staff both. But simultaneously, a delay would only jeopardise the academic calendar further. While board examinations can still be deferred, how would one defer the entrance examinations to IITs and other colleges? The pandemic poses a very serious question for the HRD ministry as it keeps more than 30 lakh students restless.

While several universities have started their admission process, those dependent on entrance examinations such as engineering and medical colleges amid others would face a serious disadvantage and loss of academic period. While the academic calendar for colleges can be shifted further, replacing the winter break with regular classes, it is the admission process that has to be uniformly conducted. It cannot be so that most universities conclude their admission process while entrances to others are not conducted. It would leave many students in a tough spot. Entrance examinations leave majority of students without a seat who then take recourse to other universities and courses. Intricate decision-making lies ahead of the HRD ministry which will define the lives of millions. At this juncture, cancelling board examinations appears a more viable alternative notwithstanding the loss that students would incur on account of assessment made on internal marks. It is also viable since the psychological impact of the pandemic is more than likely to affect students' performance in a haphazardly conducted exam. However, an opportunity to improve the score should be awarded to students irrespective of admissions made on the basis of the current assessment. It will allow students who could not get their desired college another, and a fair, attempt. A special entrance conducted later this year to accommodate for the lost opportunity could also be discussed amid other alternatives as the pandemic is likely to force academic calendars into substantial delays.

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