After a heated few weeks of election campaign, the election fever has mellowed down after polling concluded on April 6. In the same period, over the last 45 days, Tamil Nadu witnessed an alarming 10-fold spike in COVID-19 cases.
With the steady increase in cases during the election period, the fear of another lockdown was looming large over the state. As expected, on April 8 a Government Order issuing multiple restrictions was passed, to be implemented from April 10.
The government, however, clarified that the present scenario is not a full lockdown. But, if the spread of the virus is not controlled, further restrictions would be imposed.
Schools and colleges which had briefly opened for offline classes barely lasted two months.
Amid rise in the number of cases and emergence of school clusters, schools which opened for Classes 10 and 12 on January 19 this year, and for Classes 9 and 11 on February 8, again closed for from March 22, except for class 12.
After remaining closed since March 2020, colleges reopened for physical classes on February 8 this year, but again shut from March 23.
More than a year into the pandemic and initial lockdown, the Tamil Nadu government continues to struggle to take decisions on the education front. The increasing COVID-19 cases have added to the pressure.
WILL CLASS 12 EXAMS BE POSTPONED?
Given the increase in COVID-19 cases, several schools have asked the government to postpone Class 12 state board exams, which is scheduled to begin on May 3. Suggestions of vaccinating the Class 12 students before the board exams have also come up.
The practical exams for Class 12 are scheduled to be held from April 16 to 23 and the board exams are to begin from the first week of May.
Robert, state general secretary of Secondary Grade Seniority Teachers’ Association (SSTA) told NewsClick, “With the increasing COVID-19 cases, we feel it is better to have the Class 12 exams online. Maybe paper evaluation can be made strict because students will write from home.”
“We have been approaching officers asking them to hold the exams online. We have not been able to meet the respective Ministers because of elections in the state, but we will submit a memorandum next week,” he added.
Accessibility to proper gadgets and internet facilities remains a pertinent question if exams are to be conducted online.
Educationist Prince Gajendra Babu said, “Online mode of exam is practically not possible. Most students would have to access computer centres for that.”
He also said that, “The exams could be scheduled for June because offline classes began only in January, and at least five months of classes before conducting exams is necessary. And, releasing results in early July will not affect the situation in any way,” adding that, “Extraordinary situations require extraordinary decisions.”
With pressure from different sections of society, whether Class 12 exams would be conducted as scheduled is yet unclear.
COURT OBJECTS GOVT DECISION OF ‘ALL-PASS’
In August 2020, the Tamil Nadu government issued an order cancelling arrear exams for college students in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Madras High Court on April 7 took objection to the GO and directed the state government and the University Grants Commission (UGC) to arrive at a solution that can be taken by way of an examination or some other method.
The bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said “unqualified persons cannot be certified to have qualified to pursue professional courses or even higher studies”.
Advocate-General Vijay Narayan contended that the evaluation system adopted to award marks for the arrears was actually in accordance with UGC guidelines.
Though the GO applied to engineering courses too, Anna University refused to implement it. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) was also not in favour of cancelling arrear examinations. Therefore, the GO was implemented only for arts and science colleges in the state.
When NewsClick asked Gajendra Babu about his stance on the scenario, he said, “Syllabus is drawn by the university, and both pedagogy and evaluation are a part of it, so the university is the best judge in this case. If the government wants to take a decision, it should have set up an expert committee with both student and institution representatives. The expert committee decision could have been placed in its defence in the court.”
He further added, “Students have arrears in exams for so many reasons, it does not mean they did not attend classes or did not write their internal exams, so they should be passed.”
Meanwhile, final year arts and science course students with arrears are confused if they are graduating this year or not. The judges have asked the government for details regarding the methodology adopted by each university in the state, the number of students who have applied for clearing arrear examinations and the number of students who have been declared pass to be submitted in court by April 15.