Anxiety, tension amongst students over delay in Class XII exams

Students urge government to decide soon

Society

May 23, 2021

/ By E. Prema / New Delhi

Anxiety, tension amongst students over delay in Class XII exams

A teacher with a class of students earlier this year, when schools reopened for a short while as number of Covid cases had gone down (MIG photos/Aman Kanojiya)

The postponement of Class XII and competitive examinations like JEE and NEET has created uncertainty amongst most students about their future plans and the interminable wait for clarity is making them stressed and tense.

Will Class XII exams take place or are they cancelled? If they happen, will it online or offline? When will the government decide? What about entrance for next academic year?

These and many other similar questions have been clouding the minds of thousands of students across the country as the government has repeatedly changed its position on whether the final examinations for the crucial Class XII will indeed take place and if so when and under what circumstances.

The uncertainty is taking its toll on the mental health of the students as well as their parents. In a normal academic year, the dates for these examinations, which determine the fate and future path of millions of students across India, are announced well ahead of time, as early as December of the preceding year. However, with the second wave of the pandemic in full swing across India, there has been complete lack of clarity about these and other examinations.

On May 4, after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, the class X exams for CBSE students were cancelled and those of Class XII postponed, with a decision to be taken on June 1, depending on the prevailing coronavirus situation.

The postponement has made most of the students unhappy, while a few say they are relieved and happy. Seeking early information, students and parents have been posting messages on social media platforms with hashtags like #cancelboardexams2021, #saveboardstudents, #cancel12thboardexams2021, that have been trending for the past few weeks. Indeed, there are over 1million tweets using this hashtag.

‘Don’t play with our lives’ is the common refrain of the students who also asked the government to organise online exams in order to get rid of the uncertainty.

“No! I am not at all happy with the postponement of board exams, as we already got ample time for revision,” says R Balaji, a student of Class XII in Kabilan Higher Senior Secondary School, a government school at Thirukoilure, about 200 km south of Chennai, in Tamil Nadu.

About 2,500 km north of Thirukoilure, in the national capital, New Delhi, R Nirmala, a student of Class XII at DTEA Senior Secondary School at Lodhi Estate, is equally enraged about the postponement, saying it has stressed her a lot.

“I don’t want to take on more burden of preparing continuously for exams. We have already revised a number of times and it is really affecting our mental health. This pandemic has totally changed my future schedule. I wanted to continue with my higher studies in Chennai, my native place. I want to study law at the Loyola University in Chennai. I wish the exams should be conduct as soon as possible so that I can get admissions in that,” Nirmala tells Media India Group.

Another student in Delhi, Ishika Yadav, is also very vocal about her unhappiness. “I am waiting for my exams to do my best. But all over the country, everything is getting delayed due to this procrastination, with people saying that we cannot expect miracles to overcome this situation overnight and we have to wait until normal life returns. But this is affecting our future,” says Yadav, a student of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in New Delhi.

However, for some students, like Poonam Gupta, a student of Sarvodaya Girls Senior Secondary School, New Delhi, the postponement has come as a boon. “I am very happy with the postponement of exams. In fact, it would be rather good if the exams would be cancelled. I am not very well prepared for the exams as our school teachers rarely taught us in online classes, they used to send the YouTube links of the chapter and the PDF of question and answers for each chapter to learn and write on our own,” explains Poonam.

Few students have been satisfied with online classes (MIG photos/Aman Kanojiya)

Online classes ineffective for most

Indeed, most students, whether they are for or against postponement of exams, agree that the online classes have been a total failure. With the schools having been shut for over 15 months now, education at all levels has moved to online classes. However, as most studies have shown, at least in India the online classes have been a flop due to several reasons, notably lack of devices for poorer students or absence of a reliable internet connection even for those from better off families.

Some students, especially those in government schools, say their teachers did not take the online classes at all. “My teacher rarely took online classes. Even when one of us asked a question in the school WhatsApp group, the teachers did not respond to these. Also, I live in a village and many of my friends don’t have smartphones to attend the classes. Even for those of us with smartphones, it has really been difficult to study without properly understanding many topics, and to prepare for the final exams,” says R Balaji from Thirukoilure.

“I faced a lot of problems in online classes and studying by myself. My siblings also had online classes but we had only one phone. As a result, I missed a lot of classes and now I am unable to understand many concepts. I can’t force my parents to buy a new phone as I know that they cannot afford it. So, it will be rather good news for me if the exams are cancelled,” says Poonam Gupta.

Nirmala agrees about the bad quality of online classes and the poor learning that resulted from it. “During online classes, the biggest problem faced by all the students was the improper network connection and a lot of doubts about the subjects. The way teachers used to teach us in school is now not the same. Most of the students, including me, lose concentration in this way of teaching. I always used to switch off the video and mute the audio. Not only me, all my classmates do the same. When the teacher asked a question, only one or two students could answer in every class,” she explains.

The online mode of education has been specially challenging for science students. Take the case of Raghav Sharma, a student of Vidya Bhavan Mahavidyalaya Senior Secondary School in New Delhi, who wants to go on to study pharmacy by pursuing Bachelor of Pharmacy. “As a science student, it is really difficult for me to learn chemistry experiments, equations, step by step without doing any experiments in the laboratory,” he says. “We are facing  problems in science and mathematics and studying online classes makes it more difficult to study,” he says.

However, there were exceptional cases of students being happy about the quality of online education provided by their teachers. Ishika Yadav says she quickly mastered the art of online studies and also thanks the efforts put in by her teachers. “In the beginning it was quite difficult for me to understand and to study online, but I thank my teachers for teaching us in the best way. I have not faced any problem in online classes. They used to give us tests every fortnight, this way they gained everyone’s concentration in studies and boosted us for the final exam preparation also,” she says happily.

Students of government schools have been specially impacted by the prolonged closure of schools (MIG photos/Aman Kanojiya)

Clouding the future          

Class XII marks one of the most important moments in a student’s life in India as the results of this exam are considered for the future education, with colleges limiting their seats for only top students in each discipline. The students say that the delay in examinations will also cloud their future studies in the absence of clarity about what will happen in the next academic year in the next level, the first year of undergraduate studies.

“Postponement is not an option. You’re just giving more stress and delaying our academic year,” is how many students have been tweeting in India as most of them were fully prepared for the exams.

“This pandemic has really changed our future schedule. My parents expect me to bring good results, so I hope the exams can take place quickly. I hope the situation changes soon,” says Raghav Sharma.

Students fervently hope that this uncertainty comes to an end on June 1, so that they can plan their future peacefully. Already, the pandemic has caused a whole range of mental stress to the students as they have spent most of them locked inside their homes, away from their friends and struggling to cope with online classes. Many students are specially distressed as they have lost family members and loved ones to Covid-19. They just hope that at least now the government should allow them to piece back their lives together.

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