Boards Free to Choose Assessment Criteria
Impossibility of conducting offline exams during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and the impracticability of holding online examinations due to health and digital divide in the country compelled various stakeholders in the education system to move the Supreme Court (SC) for appropriate reliefs. The first petition was filed on behalf of the students to cancel the State and Central Board exams. During the hearing of the petition the SC persuaded the Union Government and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to cancel the physical exams and finalize an assessment formula to evaluate the academic performance of the students.
Accordingly the CBSE submitted a scheme to assess the final marks of Class XII students whose exams were cancelled due to Covid-19 and was approved by SC. According to this, the CBSE has set deadlines for schools to complete the assessment process and declare the results by July 31. The Board also informed the SC that optional exams for Class XII students unhappy with their assessments will be held anytime between August 15 and September 15.
Later another petition was filed on behalf of a group of parents claiming that the Covid-19 graph is in a free fall and the internal assessment schemes for Class XIICBSE and ICSE students should be chucked in favour of physical exams. Another petition was filed by students to cancel the State Board exams due to the pandemic. The SC observed that insistence on Class 12 physical exams was irrational during the pandemic and said that students cannot be left in uncertainty about their health and future. CBSE, ICSE and Union Government felt that holding exams would harm the health of students in view of possible pandemic third wave.
The SC has also directed the State Boards to notify their respective schemes for internal assessment of the final marks of Class 12 students within 10 days of the judgement and ordered them to declare the results by July 31. The Court refused to entertain a plea for a uniform scheme of assessment to be made applicable to all Boards as each one of them was autonomous. However, the Court clarified that allowing Boards to form their own independent schemes did not preclude the Court from judicially reviewing their correctness and validity when an occasion arose. By directing the State Boards to declare their results before July 31 the Court ensured that students across the country get a level playing field in college admissions and other opportunities for higher studies. During the hearing SC remarked that the UGC should announce a cut-off date for admissions to prompt school Boards to declare Class 12 results on time.
Dismissing a writ plea of students from Kerala to cancel Class XI exams, the SC noted that students could approach the Kerala High Court with their plea.