Cancellation of examinations for the 12th grade in India — my personal views

About the cancellation of the 12th grade exams in India, and its related issues…

Since the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, and there are speculations of a third wave where it is said children will be more vulnerable, my personal opinion is that it is the right decision. In case exams were to happen, it could have become a superspreader, and the children who come to school, along with the teachers, were both vulnerable to infection, carrying it home to their families — parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends, etc.

Some of them do attend coaching centres and private tuitions, which can also be a vulnerable point for the infection to spread.

With such a large number of students taking the 12th grade exams, was it worth the risk? My personal opinion is that it was wise to postpone the 12th-grade examination currently and provide the grades on the basis of internal assessments and laboratory assessments. It was also said that, optionally, after a couple (?) of months, if everything returns to normal, the students who are not satisfied with the internal assessment marks can take the board examination.

Would that not be chaotic — a few of them having been given the opportunity to reject their internal assessment grades, and a few of them being allowed to take board exams later? From question authoring to paper setting to the delivery of the exams, it will be a logistics nightmare. In the end, it is not a level-playing ground. Some of the children move on, based on internal assessment, and a few others have the privilege of opting for board exams later – when? Anybody’s guess.

There was a suggestion that why the exams cannot be a collection of objective questions, and all of them scored on the same basis. I happen to run an EdTech business, particularly strong in the areas of delivering secure online exams, globally. If one wants to do a good job of this, it takes several months of preparation. Good objective type questions are more difficult for an author when compared to traditional questions and question papers. The process is lengthy, and the process could take several months if it has to be a good job. Authoring of questions involves both subject matter experts and psychometricians. Even the objective type questions are of several types; last known to me, there are 50+ question types. The ‘options’ for multiple-choice questions, actually called ‘distractors’, should be carefully chosen. As the name suggests, they are meant to distract you in selecting the right answer. There is more to authoring these questions, particularly if it has been for an adaptive test like GMAT or GRE or SAT.

And then it is time to construct the question pools and question banks, and the process flow continues to use an algorithm for actually constructing a test, delivering it, marking it, etc. Technically, we are handling large data, and a lot of analytics need to be performed before the results are announced. This is easily a 6 months’ process, as otherwise, it will be a namesake exam. To deliver such large-scale tests we also have to ensure security, a robust software application, APP, and more importantly, the availability of the user-end computing device of the right configuration — both the hardware configuration and the software stack, even though the test-taking could happen on a browser. Do we have the inclusivity of devices and good internet availability to ensure that the tests are comprehensively inclusive?

To take CBSE exams online, in my personal opinion, is a complicated and huge task. It is best we deal with reconfiguring the re-admission processes, particularly where competitive exams are not available at present, and it should not be challenging. It may be a good idea for CBSE to establish counseling facilities online for the parents and the students to obtain clarifications, in addition to a comprehensive FAQ.

Strange and tough times call for tough measures, keeping the safety of our citizens the foremost. We have to adapt to the circumstances for this year.

About the author

D Sudhanva is the founder and CEO at Excelsoft Technologies, a globally renowned eLearning Solutions Company. With a focus on transforming education across the world, Sudhanva has steered Excelsoft to be a thought leader in Education Technology with robust products delivering innovative solutions.