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And Then There Were No Exams….

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By Roli S
Then there came a day in India when a ‘board exam’ got cancelled and I want to thank corona virus just for this once that it made such a historic day possible. Finally, ‘pareeksha pay charcha’ culminated in a very good decision that there would be ‘no pareeksha’ and thank god for that! I never thought in my lifetime I would see day when a board exam would get cancelled in India. Why? Because the entire basis of entering a school and gaining education in India revolves around just the ‘board exams’ and ‘performance in the board exam’! From grade one, teachers in schools begin to train their students in a way that they get ‘good marks’ in the board exam! After all, so much is at stake, the reputation of schools, families, young lives!

But, these days, the mighty ‘board exams’ have lost their importance; want to know why? Because the whole human race is giving the biggest exam of its life and it dare not fail in that. Covid 19, though, is the study material and spark for the scientific community – a real big exam of resilience, discipline, and leadership. And this is no memory test like all the other exams; this is a real-life exam where no one will stop you from referring to any material to crack Covid 19. These days, I often find myself sitting and wondering if all the students who learnt from me in school are taking this Covid 19 exam expertly. Did I prepare them well for a real-life exam like this one? But, then, half of what the students learn in school is useful only for the time they sit for their board exams or other written exams, because most of these test just the memory, while life tests real learning. I hope my students learnt something during my classes, when I taught them about disaster management! They fared excellently in the board exams on the topic, I am sure of that! And, then, I see all around me people flaunting rules and not following Covid 19 appropriate behaviour and I again sit and lament the lack of efficacy and usefulness of the written exams that we conduct in our schools! All the people struggling to pass this real-life exam may have passed some sort of written board exam or the other at some point in their lives, why then are they failing at this real-life test? The purpose of learning is not to give exams in class and forget about it, but to increase knowledge until they have control over their lives.

I wish to prepare a report card for the entire human race that is taking this Covid 19 exam. I wish to grade all those leaders and policy makers and front line workers who are running their countries and offices competently with an“O” for outstanding performance, I wish to give an“M” for ‘meeting expectations’, to all the people of my country and world who are following masking, hand washing and social distancing rules, and I wish to give an “E” ‘exceeding expectations’ to all those who are postponing their festive/marriage celebrations or other important social events to fight the menace of Covid 19, and I wish to grade all the rest who are not following the above mentioned rules with an “NSI” because they definitely ‘need significant improvement’ for failing miserably by crowding market places, religious gatherings, political rallies, family functions, etc., without masks!

It is easy for me to prepare a report card of this Covid 19 life exam, but I am certain that to prepare a fair and competent one of all the students of CBSE grade X who are not taking a paper and pen exam will be an uphill task for many teachers and school administrators, because they have got so used to treating their students as a ‘blob of ink called marks’ on the report card! But I hope, this time around, they close their eyes and feel all their students in their heart and minds, collect their performances and competencies judicially and generate an unobjectionable and robust board exam report card for each and every student. A good decision made by the leadership of our country must be used by the schools to show their competence in fairly assessing their students! Because education is not merely meant for students to write and pass exams, get a good job and a good house, and settle down for survival, but to prepare all the students for any future life exams like the one humanity is facing today!

(Roli S is an Educator, Teacher Trainer, Author and School Reviewer based in Thane.)