Finally, as per the wishes of the decision-makers and the bureaucrats, the results of the HSLC and HSSLC examinations- which didn’t take place- were formally declared. After keeping more than 7 lakh students of both these examinations in long suspense and virtually taking no suggestions or views from them, the authorities declared the “examination” results based on a specially designed evaluation.

Interestingly, the government has kept a proposal for an alternative examination. As per this proposal, those examinees who are not satisfied with the results produced by the evaluation committee can appear in this alternative examination. Instructions are circulated that, in this case, the students will have to appear a total of 6 “theory” exams. The marks obtained through internal assessment and practicals will be tallied from the lists already available with SEBA.

In the case of those students interested to appear in this special examination, their “digital marksheets” produced by the school evaluation committees will stand cancelled and new marksheets and certificates of passing will be provided on the basis of their performance in these special examinations.

This alternative form of evaluation proposed by the Board of Secondary Education, Assam (SEBA) has raised certain doubts in our mind which we would like to raise here. First, in the hypothetical scenario of a huge section of students appearing in the matriculation examination not satisfied with the results/ marks given by the evaluation committee, they opt for re-evaluation then the government will have to conduct full scale (covering all) examination.

If the government wanted it could have conducted such an examination already, involving its whole machinery including all employees, public servants and even the members of rural Panchayats fully maintaining Covid protocol. Even the services of reliable non-government organizations could be utilized for doing it in a decentralized manner. One could have even sought community participation/ assistance.

The government couldn’t, however, dare to do so. The politicians and bureaucrats, who totally forgot about the Covid protocols during the elections, didn’t show much interest in taking views of either the students or the civil society in conducting the examinations. The question is: how the government, which failed to conduct the examination with the excuse of the Covid pandemic, is now going to conduct the special examination? Can it be guaranteed that this special examination, too, will not be delayed or abandoned!

Second, sometime back, while making observations on a PIL challenging SSLC examinations to be conducted by the government, the Karnataka High Court made it clear that the decision taken by the government to conduct the final examination for class X is in the interests of the students only.

The High Court remarked, “In the case of 2nd PUC students, there was data available to assess the marks. However, as far as the SSLC students are concerned, there is no such data; therefore, we find there is no arbitrariness in holding exams on July 19.”

Third, the biggest worry is, in the scenario of students unhappy with the marks obtained in the evaluation choosing to appear in the special examination, what will be the criteria of differentiation in two results! As SEBA has declared that the “digital marksheets” will get automatically stand cancelled of those students who will appear in the special examination, in the hypothetical scenario of some students getting lower marks in this examination, will it not be unfair to them?

Or, rather the Board (SEBA) is not trying to establish two parallel systems through this? We fail to understand why the authorities couldn’t recognize the comparative better results between the two options instead of cancelling the acceptability of the digital marksheets!

Mental harassment:

How the internal assessment or the evaluation processes designed by the school evaluation committees have weakened the confidence level and mental strength of the student is quite apparent from the two following examples.

The elder son of one of my cousins was to appear in the Matriculation examination this year. The private school he studies in has been showing very good results in the last few years with many students getting top positions. A few have even secured the first position.

Naturally, this particular student, who has always secured first position till now, was making preparation aiming for the top position in the examination this year. Now, after realizing that there will be no examination this time and the marks will be decided through the alternate evaluation process instead of examination, he became very disheartened.

As explained by his father, “Since his childhood, the surrounding environment, including the parents, teachers and the society, created a competitive spirit in him. He took examination as a 100 metres race! Naturally, his sole aim was to clinch a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal and accordingly he did the preparations. Now he’s totally upset with this decision not to conduct the examination. “Now it doesn’t matter who made how much effort or who studied how much. Even those who didn’t participate in the race will get the medals!” he says.

Another friend’s son is studying in class IX in a CBSE school. Expressing his dissatisfaction with the CBSE evaluation (internal assessments) method, he said, “Earlier the students didn’t take the internal assessment tests very seriously. They appeared for the exams in a routine manner while preparing for the final School Leaving Examination in real earnest. So, evaluating only on the basis of internal assessment, doing away with the actual examination will be doing injustice to the intelligence and talents of many students. Finally, even the online tests that have been conducted in the post- Covid scenario, too, are self-defeating as in the majority of the cases, it’s the parents rather than students, who are taking them! Many with resources have even engaged tutors for the same.”

So, in a country like India, where intelligence is judged only through questions and answers, the abruptly designed evaluation process instead of a well thought out alternative system is likely to spoil the future of the lakhs of students.

Kishor Kumar Kalita

Kishor Kumar Kalita is a commentator based in Guwahati and can be reached at kishorassam@gmail.com