The Prime Minister of India is the lead decision-maker. The Who’s Who of Cabinet Ministers is participating. The Supreme Court of India is keeping a keen eye on the proceedings. The country is awaiting the result with bated breath. Finally, the result is out: The school and board exams have been failed, meaning cancelled.
The decision is termed ground-breaking by an adulating media. The Government of India gets full marks for considering the safety of children as paramount. All the stakeholders congratulate each other on the quid pro quo. CBSE, ICSE and the State Boards get busy conjuring up convoluted assessment criteria for the formality of passing the children.
So, from the perspective of children and parents isn’t the cancellation of school and board exams good, rather great? Well, it depends on how one perceives the difference it has made to the lives of children and parents, and as I see it, the difference is zilch, not even minimal. Yes, the kids don’t have to go through the drudgery, but apart from that, what’s the change?
Entrance Exams Matter
What matters for the admissions to the under-graduate courses of all hues: Entrance Exams.
What makes children and parents lose their night’s sleep and hard-earned money respectively: The coaching for entrance exams.
Where’s the money to be made by educational institutions/coaching centres: Entrance Exams.
What gets advertised in media as success stories of children: The performance in entrance exams.
Who’s the current deity of the Indian education system: Entrance Exams.
With so much control and power wielded by entrance exams, school and board exams were anyways on the back-burner. Ask any child/parent from 6th/7th grade onwards on what is the focus in the coming years and the answer will be: Entrance Exams. Yes, passing in school and board exams is mandatory with some crooked %, but that’s about it.
So, with a situation like this, how does the cancellation of only school and board exams help a child? Has JEE been scrapped? Does NEET go anywhere? Is there any change in CLAT status? Or for that matter, the plethora of entrance exams conducted separately by each of the private universities? Nope, no cancellations for any of these.
Does cancellation of school and board exams mean that children won’t have to go out during COVID-19? Well, they will have to go out – To write the entrance exams. Some novel coronavirus is this – it affects kids when they go out to write school and board exams, but is utterly harmless when they go out to write entrance exams.
If the Government of India/Supreme Court of India is so concerned about the well-being of children, why not cancel these entrance exams too? They won’t, they can’t. They understand that currently, the foundation of the education fiefdom is entrance exams and not the poor yesteryear’s star – school and board exams.
School and Board Exams Are Redundant
One might feel that the above narrative is needless nitpicking about the cancellation of exams. Rather, this shows the correct pecking order in the Indian education system and it is time that school and board exams are called out for what they are: An old relic with no significance/justification of its continued existence, out of sync with the changing times.
School and board exams have had no innovation ever since. It remains a celebration of a child’s excellence in rote learning. The COVID-19 pandemic allowed us to come up with options for the incompetent and futile ritual of yearly exams. Rather than coming up with alternatives, their cancellation conveys that we cannot look beyond them.
Now that they are cancelled, does any child/parent/school/board/education expert miss them? No. Has the cancellation led to any adverse impact on the future of anyone/anything? No. If something is not missed, if its absence doesn’t lead to any undesirable outcome, was it really serving any purpose for anyone at all?
This is not to say that entrance exams are any good. It is another case of the cure being worse than the disease. However, let’s take one step at a time.
Let’s agree that school and board exams were/are no good. As there has been a precedence of two school years without them, it is time to build on it by coming up with alternatives and not going back to the old junk. A flight of fantasy, anyone?
Long Live School And Board Exams
Knowing the Indian education system, its proclivity to control and resist change, it won’t be long before the school and board exams will be back.
Last heard, CBSE has come up with a brainwave of two Board exams for 2021-22. What else? The purposeless and aimless saga of school and board exams continues. Ministry of Education is all for striving to be renamed as Ministry of Examinations.
What are your views on this subject?
PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert, just growing up together with my children. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.