New Delhi: For Hetal Shah, a Class 12 student in a private school in Gujarat, March 2020 was full of anxiety and fear. The batch senior to hers waited for months to write their final papers as the Covid-19 pandemic gripped the country and board exams were postponed. Shah was left wondering if fate would have the same in store for her.
It certainly did. As her own board exams approached, India began registering a massive number of cases, and many boards, including the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), the Council for Indian School Certificate Exams (CISCE), the International Baccalaureate (IB) and state boards, have postponed their exams without hinting when they will be held. And now, students like Hetal are back to a state of confusion and anxiety.
The only difference this year is that schools and education experts have had time to figure out how to help students tide over the crisis. After conducting classes online for almost a year, schools believe they are prepared to deal with any learning disruptions that might arise in future, and are advising students how to keep calm.
Padma Srinivasan, principal of Delhi Public School, R.K. Puram, New Delhi, said: “Relax for a few days at home and restart the preparation all over again. You should honestly attempt the online tests prepared by your school and work on your weaknesses and strengths before the exams and success will surely be yours.”
Alka Kapur, principal of Modern Public School, Shalimar Bagh, also asked students to keep their morale up and focus on studies.
“They should not let this news lower their morale. They should keep preparing themselves for the upcoming entrance exams as well as the board exams,” she said.
Kapur also recommended that students start with self-assessment and do a complete subject-wise revision, solve test papers and take mock tests, and read references to gain a better understanding. She also requested parents to take an active role in helping them.
Dr Mona Lisa Bal, chairperson, KiiT International School in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, added that students should now focus on strategically planning their schedule.
“This decision will have an impact on the students’ psychology, and some might get disheartened after preparing for their exams for over a year now. Focus on the directions given by the teachers and systematically appear in tests. Believe in yourself and focus on academics,” she advised.
Dr Bijaya Kumar Sahoo, adviser and working president, Odisha Adarsha Vidyalaya Sangathan, said students should not worry about anything because the government is taking all necessary steps for their protection.
“The cancellation (Class 10) and the postponement (Class 12) of CBSE board examinations is a step towards the safety of our future. Students should not stress; in fact, I would suggest take a deep breath and listen to some good classical music to relax your brain… Revise what all you had studied for the exams and also keep practicing for your upcoming competitive exams,” said Sahoo.
Students should use tech to their benefit
Experts in the education technology space, meanwhile, suggest students can go for online study material, take mock tests and prepare themselves for the board exams and their college entrances.
“Students can use this time to evaluate their preparedness in more creative ways. There is a wealth of engaging material online that they can use to cross reference their understanding of subjects and concepts, take mock tests and read up on strategies to better prepare themselves for the boards,” said Divya Lal, managing director of Fliplearn, an online subscription-based teaching and learning platform.
“There are a number of learning apps that facilitate these activities and students can take advantage of the extra time they have on their hands now,” she said.
Lal advised that at the same time, students must also ease off a bit and proactively pursue and extra-curricular activities, like a hobby or a project, or learn a new skill.
“Anything that interests them can become a good psychological counterbalance to the stress associated with exam preparation,” she said.
Rohit Jain, CEO and co-founder of DUX Education, a live tutoring platform for ‘K-12’ students (those from kindergarten to Class 12) said exams and marks are very small events if one looks at the big picture.
“I am sure that most of the students would have already prepared for their exams and 15 days is good enough to revise again for exams,” he said, referring to the boards saying the schedule for the exams will be announced at least two weeks before they begin.
“At this stage, what they need to do most is to ensure that they resume their learning journey outside the course books. Health comes first, and so, all of this follows some rest which is critical for kids. No one can deny that this has been a tough year for them,” Jain added.
Santanu Mishra, co-founder & executive trustee of Smile Foundation, an NGO that works for the education of children from poor families, said it is essential that Class 10 students whose board exams have been cancelled continue to learn through any means available to them.
“We must ensure continued learning for students. Those in Class 12 whose exams have been postponed must continue learning through any means available to them — smartphones, tablets, television sets, radio and even through feature phones. This kind of blended learning is most effective. The situation is trying, but students mustn’t lose hope and should continue to pursue learning,” Mishra said.
Smile Foundation has helped students from underprivileged families keep learning through the pandemic with its ‘Shiksha Na Ruke’ initiative.
Some experts also suggested that the authorities should switch to online exams and adopt appropriate methods to ensure fairness.
Anuj Jindal, CEO of AJC EduTech, said the intention behind cancelling and postponing exams is noble. However, postponing the exams has a ripple effect on the future of students, which authorities often ignore.
“Lack of synchronisation between schools and colleges would leave many students out of higher education in the next one year,” Jindal said.
“The solution lies in adapting fast to the changing conditions by using digital mediums to conduct examinations in a fair manner. If government examinations like those for RBI & SEBI can be conducted online, board examinations can also be conducted online using similar technology. This will ensure that the future of our youth is not wasted, in a competitive environment where every year is crucial,” he added.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)