Illustration by Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint
Illustration by Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint
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New Delhi: In a world where collaborative learning is key, students in the critical classes 10 and 12 have had the loneliest year of all.

Deprived of classroom learning and co-curricular activities essential to one’s all round development, the Class of 2021 is on the verge of missing out on another crucial rite of passage — board exams.

Now that the central government has decided to postpone the Class 12 CBSE exams and cancel those for Class 10, students from across the country say the Covid-19 pandemic has left them with an overwhelming sense of loss.

In conversations with ThePrint, students of Class 10 said they were worried about how their results would be calculated by the CBSE, while those in Class 12 had a fresh set of concerns — when will their exams be conducted, and how will that impact their future prospects in colleges and universities?

Schools across the country had been shut since the Covid-19 pandemic shook the world in March 2020, and even when the central government granted permission for them to re-open in a phased manner, they were able to do so barely for a month or two before closing down again in March 2021.

This past year was also instructive for their teachers in many new ways, such as adapting to online classes and keeping a more open mind while giving marks, considering the many disruptions everyone faced. Some also spoke about the need to ensure children worked while at home, while others expressed worries about the kind of stress their students were coping with.

Educationists and counsellors, meanwhile, pointed to the gap in knowledge created by the pandemic, because not every student from a poor family or remote part of India could tune in to online classes. They spoke about how state governments needed to bridge this gap, so that the damage caused by the pandemic to school education could be mitigated.

Here’s how the last academic year went from all of their perspectives.


Also read: 1,000 cases in 7 states: How schools, colleges emerged as Covid clusters after reopening


Online classes ‘exhausting’, not as effective as classroom education

Jahan Singh Gill, a Class 12 student at a private school in Delhi, said 2020-21 was the “most overwhelmingly stressful year”.

“From managing to keep up my grades throughout school, I went to nearly failing certain subjects as there was simply no motivation to study. Online classes brought in mental exhaustion, excessive increase in screen time and minimal interaction,” Gill said.

“Despite preparing myself before each class to make sure I didn’t lose focus and manage to take notes, I’d always get distracted and take advantage of the fact that no one could monitor what was happening on the other end of the screen, since turning on cameras was not mandatory. I’ve personally always been a better learner in a classroom environment, which the school could not establish online despite numerous efforts,” he added.

Now, with the Class 12 boards postponed, Gill added, “This decision increases our uncertainties about the future since there is no clarity on whether exams will take place in two months from now; there’s no date sheet.”

Ishadrita Sengupta, another Class 12 student from a school in Mumbai, echoed this view. “Online classes have not been as effective as offline classes. There has been mental exhaustion and lack of concentration. I feel it’s highly unfair that the boards now want to hold exams in offline mode,” Sengupta said.

“Me and most of the other students were ready to write the exams. The delay has just added to our stress, and the months of preparation will now be prolonged,” she added.

Archisman Chaudhuri, a Class 12 student at Delhi Public School, Gurugram, is in favour of offline board exams as he feels that online exams can’t guarantee transparency. Chaudhuri also lamented the fact that the pandemic has forced him to miss out on a huge chunk of his school life.

“Making the transition from offline to online in the snap of a finger was tough. But, sooner or later, we did that. I believe that most of us worked throughout the year but we have learnt to cope with it. Now, we are ready for the offline exam,” he said.

Some students also said they had to rely on self-study, since online classes arranged by the schools did not help much.

A Class 10 student at Modern School, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi, said on the condition of anonymity: “From the beginning of the session, I had started facing issues with online classes and it made me realise that I will have to take control of my studies on my own. So I started self-study, with the help of some research online, books and notes from teachers.”

This student was unhappy with the cancellation of the Class 10 CBSE board exams. “The exams should have been conducted… If schools rely on internal tests, then the results are going to be really unfair. I personally know students who used unfair means,” she claimed.

Missing friends, experiences of last year of school

Missing out on a normal school year was, to a lot of students, the “biggest trauma” of their year under the pandemic.

Diya Manghani, a Class 10 student in Delhi, said if there is one thing she wishes for in the coming year, is to “attend offline classes”.

“I think all of us took offline classes for granted… Earlier, we would wish that school should give us a day of online classes so that we get to be home. But now, it’s the opposite. I miss going to school, meeting my friends, teachers and just the whole experience of being in school,” she said.

Diya’s younger sister Saniya, who just cleared Class 9, also wishes that she gets to go to school.

The sisters told ThePrint that they supported each other throughout the school shutdown period, and motivated each other at a time when they did not have access to their other friends. “My sister and I spent time with each other; we would play board games, get involved in physical activities and just motivate each other throughout this period,” said Diya.

Similarly, for students of Class 12, the biggest regret was missing out on the experiences of their final year in school.

“It was my last school year and I miss meeting my classmates… School life is the time when you forge the strongest bonds that stay with you for life. Of course I can meet my friends outside, but the whole experience of a farewell to the graduating class… that last class before summer break… all that will be missed,” said Sneha, a student of Carmel Convent, Bhopal.


Also read: Students want colleges reopened as 2nd semester begins, but experts warn of Covid clusters


How did teachers cope?

Sonika Agarwal, who teaches at a government high school in Mumbai, said educators have had to be extra-sensitive to students amid the Covid pandemic.

“We knew that students are going through a lot, plus the transition to online classes was something that was new for them and us. Hence, we had to be calm and patient with them. When it came to assessments, the marking was very lenient, considering the learning disruptions,” said Agarwal.

A math teacher at a private school in Patiala, Punjab, said some of her students “were stressed, while some went into depression”.

“One of my students said he won’t take the CBSE exam this year, and would prefer to go for the state boards the next year. Students aren’t confident enough that they will be able to give the exams,” she said.

The teacher added that her teaching experience was “fine”, but the main challenges were faced by students because many of them did not have proper connectivity and equipment for online classes. In order to help students through the pandemic year, the school launched evening classes.

“We did personal video calls to solve their doubts. We tried to help but it can’t be the same thing as being in a physical classroom. Subjects like physics, chemistry and maths need personal guidance and proper attention.”

Bindu Puri, a mathematics tutor at Fundamentals Education in Gurugram, added: “We switched to online classrooms right after the lockdown started. As we proceeded, we tried a lot of changes. Initially, we were worried about how to get used to social media. But now, we are able to conduct classes on Zoom, Skype etc. We also kept changing a lot of things depending on what the parents said. We asked students to send us their work so we were aware that they were writing at least.”

Puri also batted for offline classes, saying teachers are at least able to see what the students are writing in their notebooks.

However, there were positives too, Puri said. “I reduced the batch size and asked students to send solutions by WhatsApp. The biggest advantage of online classes was the option of being able to record classes. This gave students the opportunity to revisit difficult concepts and learn again,” she said.

Spare a thought for students without online tools

Neelima Vaidya, an independent education counsellor based in Mumbai, pointed out that students with no access to online education have been at the receiving end of the Covid pandemic more than anyone else, and suggested that state governments should arrange remedial classes for them.

“Disruption has obviously caused learning gaps in students, but I don’t think the gaps will manifest as much in students who have been continuously attending online classes. Students who did not have any means to study are the ones affected more. That will have to be dealt with through remedial classes which, ideally, schools and state governments should arrange,” Vaidya said.

“The ones who have access to online classes have faced mental fatigue, but that is something that everyone is going through during the pandemic, and it ideally should not have any effect on a student’s learning ability. As a counsellor, I keep telling students to focus on all good things they have in order to de-stress them,” she added.

Educationist Bijaya Kumar Sahoo from Odisha concurred. “The learning gaps will be more visible for students who did not have access to proper infrastructure… Students from rural, remote areas. But I think it can be tackled because students are very adaptive and they will grasp once they have access to proper classes,” said the adviser-cum-working president of the Odisha Adarsh Vidyalaya Sangathan.

“However, that said, we need to be prepared for all kinds of situations,” said Sahoo.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)


Also read: Not prepared for boards, say poor, rural students after year of online classes that never were


 

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Online education is a sham. They’re are like these cunning hyenas, who are devouring on people’s helplessness. This Byju, Vedantu, Unacademy and lot of other shitty companies are blasting parents with their advertising blitzkrieg and cashing on their insecurities. These termites have earned a moolah out of this pandemic. Govt should bring in regulatory authority on what kind of education are they really imparting.

  2. It’s all bullshit …80% of what is taught in indian school education is just scrape…never useful anywhere or help in becoming intelligent. Kids just mug up and vomit at exams…high time education system itself should change and make it less stressful for the children and more practical knowledge must be inculcated, so that they become smarter. As per online education it is the future.

  3. Online can never take the place of offline classes. Exams should have not been canceled or postponed. Giving the 10th board exam gives you the confidence to seat in bigger exams coming future like the 12th boards or the competitive exams. For 12th students, I know how hard it must be for them. They are like in the middle of nowhere filled with anxiety and uncertainty. I am a Neet aspirant living in Kota since January. I came here all the way from Odisha just make my dream come true but now Rajasthan govt. has imposed a curfew and I can’t clear my doubts or give offline exams as everything in closed not even food stalls are open. Do they think we are Ambanis who can order food from Zomato or swiggy everyday? We are just reading our ass off towards a uncertain future with clarity on anything. I can’t even decide whether to stay here or go back.

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