The Hindu


The academic session of 2020-2021 for schools and colleges seem to be bleak and too uncertain owing to the outbreak of the COVID -19 pandemic. On Sunday, former HRD minister Kapil Sibal suggested that all students barring those in Class 12 should be promoted, or even marks obtained in internal assessments can be used for marking and to refrain the exam stress.

He even proposed a suggestion for both school and university administration to reduce the course to cover up the loss caused due to lack of teaching time in this session due to the pandemic.

“Various universities will also have to take a decision on whether or not to delay the academic session and they have the autonomy to take a call and a decision cannot be forced on them,” said Mr. Sibal.

Guidelines to the universities have also been issued by The University Grants Commission (UGC) that the new academic session will begin from September 2020 and for the already enrolled students in August 2020.

But these guidelines are advisory and universities and colleges have this autonomy to plan out their own roadmaps to deal with it.

Mr. Sibal said going forward there could be two options that can be considered for school students barring those in Class 12 when asked about the schools which are shut and holding online classes amidst this uncertainty looming large over the 2020-21 academic session. 

Promotion to higher standards and then conducting extra classes after the pandemic is wiped out and even ensuring that students do complete their syllabus in the next class is also an option, Mr. Sibal suggested.

“The other way is that if you are confident that your teachers will make an objective assessment of the student community which a majority of them might, then you leave it to them and the school to make the internal assessment and promote those to Class 11 who have done well (or to the next class for students of other classes),” he said, asserting that it would save the students from the examination stress.

He pointed over the problems of subjectivity and objectivity of internal assessments to be ensured.

He even added that the entire decision on any such issue is now up to The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry.

A reform process was spearheaded by Mr. Sibal when he was the HRD minister under which compulsory CBSE Board exams for Class X were abolished.

Although, CBSE reverted to the mandatory examination for Class 10 in 2018.

On being inquired about pending classes as well as other board exams of class 10 and 12, he said, “I think as far as Class 10 board exams are concerned there should be a re-think. For Class 12 board exams, I think that in the light of the pandemic, the university calendar for the year should change and in that context let’s hope for the lockdown to be over and then the exams can be conducted.”

Talking about JEE and NEET exams he said the students from the poor and marginalized sections of the society are most disadvantaged right now.

“Remember that there is a divide in this country and it always works against the poor and the marginalized. When you have these competitive exams and there is already this divide, it hurts the poor and the marginalized even more,” he said.

Engineering entrance JEE-Mains and medical entrance exam NEET are scheduled on July 18-23, on July 26 respectively. And JEE Advanced is scheduled on August 23.

“Whether they should be held in July I can’t say, it is for the HRD Ministry to decide… But I believe you will further reduce the chances of those whose chances are already minimal in these exams,” he said. 

The compact infrastructure and packed schools make it tough to maintain social distancing and the lack of digital awareness and moreover connectivity would put the students in rural areas and poor at a great disadvantage, he asserted.

“We are in a big bind. If this pandemic were to last for a year and a year-and-half, the student community is going to be distressed further… I don’t think the kind of social distancing that we are talking about is possible in our school environment,” said Rajya Sabha member.

The lack of digital connectivity makes it tough for students to be educated digitally, he said. 

In reference to this issue he mentioned that during his tenure he had suggested making AKASH tablet available to schools and students across the nation and even to provide fiber-optic connectivity for accessing new knowledge sources.

“If this concept had been accepted and this government in the last six years had invested in connectivity as far as education is concerned, we would not have been faced with this problem today,” said Mr. Sibal. 



~ Divya 

New source: The Hindu



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