Leh, July 22 (IANS) For a region that remained snowbound for six months and whose children had to travel nearly 400 kms to seek admission in a graduate-level college, Thursday's decision to establish a central university comes as a historic development.
The Union cabinet decision to establish a central university as a centre of learning and research, will also address the intellectual imbalance of the region.
Union minister Anurag Thakur made the announcement in Delhi that the central university would be established at a cost of Rs 7,500 crore in Ladakh and the news was received with delight in Leh.
Thakur said the first phase of the university would be completed in four years.
He informed that the Bill to amend the Central Universities Act, 2009 will be introduced to facilitate the formation of the central university in Ladakh.
The jurisdiction of the central university will cover the entire Ladakh including Leh and Kargil districts.
People of the Ladakh region said the decision marks the fulfilment of their ages-old aspiration while local students and scholars said they would work in the fields of science and technology with the objective of making the region an enviable place.
"We have always wished to have a top-level higher education centre in Ladakh and the decision to establish a central university will open up new vistas and nurture loftier dreams of our students", said Sonam Narbu, a resident of Leh town.
In addition to furthering the dreams of the local students and scholars, the central university will also attract Ladakhi teachers and researchers engaged in universities outside the region.
J. Tsering Namgyal, the BJP Lok Sabha member from Ladakh, has always been critical of a left-handed deal the region had been allegedly receiving when it was part of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state.
Thursday's cabinet decision should give Namgyal reason to celebrate for the establishment of the central university is a milestone in the 'unshackling of Ladakh' from darkness and exploitation.
Following the Supreme Court's acceptance of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) merit formula for Class 12, the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board (GSHSEB) too has announced its plan for the students and the results will be declared by the third week of July.
According to the CBSE evaluation criteria, Class 12 results will be evaluated on the basis of 30:30:40 ratio. This involves the performance in Class 10 -- 30 per cent of the best three performing subjects, Class 11 -- 30 per cent based on final exams and Class 12 -- 40 per cent based on unit tests/ pre-board/midterm exams.
The GSHSEB however, not going along with the CBSE format, has formed its own evaluation policy which has been framed by a committee of 11 educationists. According to the committee's recommendations, the GSHSEB will take into account the results of Class 10, 11 and 12 in the ratio of 50:25:25 respectively.
The GSHSEB on late Thursday night, declared the policy where the total of 100 marks will be divided by giving highest weightage of 50 marks to Class 10 board results and 25 each to internal unit tests of Class 11 and 12.
The GSHSEB also announced the dates for preparation and declaration of results. For the Class 12 science stream, the results will be declared in the second week of July followed by the general stream in the third week of July. Distribution of mark sheets and certificates will be done at the end of July.
Based on this evaluation criteria, the schools will evaluate students between July 19 and 25, followed by uploading the results on the board's website between June 25 and July.
For Class 10 students, who were declared to be mass-promoted, the assessment has been divided between Class 9 and Class 10 unit tests. The government has not specified whether the term mass promotion will be applied to the Class 12 students or not.
A day after the CBSE cancelled its Class 12 exams, the Gujarat government led by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, too, had decided to scrap Class 12 state board exams on June 2.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on Thursday told the Supreme Court that for Class 12, the marks will be based on unit test/mid-term/pre-board exam and 40 per cent weightage will be given.
Results are likely to be declared by July 31.
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, representing the CBSE, submitted that the marks of practical/internal assessment etc. of Class 12 will be on actual basis as uploaded by the school on the CBSE portal.
"The total marks awarded should be in consonance with the past performance of the school in Class 12 Board Examinations," said the CBSE in its response in the top court.
"The computation of theory marks for Class 12 will be based on performance in one or more Unit Test(s)/Mid-Term/Pre-Board(s) theory examination. The result committee of the school may decide weightage to be given to each exam based on the credibility and reliability of the assessment. For example, if the committee may be of the considered view that only the Pre-Board exams may be taken into consideration, then a full weightage can be given to that component. Similarly, another school Result committee may decide to give equal weightage to Pre-Board exams and Mid-Term exams," said the CBSE affidavit in the top court.
The board submitted that the performance of the students in Class 11 and Class 10 exams will also be factored in while making the assessments.
The CBSE said while 30 per cent marks will be based on Class 11 final exam, 30 per cent marks based on best-of-three Class 10 marks will also be included while making the assessment. A bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar is hearing the matter.
The CBSE said a result committee under the principal of the school will be formed in each school comprising of two senior-most PGT from the same school and two PGT from neighbouring schools.
Committee has been given liberty to prepare the result by following the policy.
The National Testing Agency (NTA) will soon release the application form for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2021. The official website, neet.nta.nic.in and ntaneet.nic.in have the link activated. The official website displays that the application form will be available soon.
The medical entrance exam for admission to undergraduate courses is scheduled to be held on August 1. However, amid the Covid concerns, the Education Ministry will decide soon on conducting the medical entrance exam NEET in August, as per news agency PTI.
The Tamil Nadu government has said that it has not taken any decision yet on Class 12 board examinations, as some teachers and parents in the state have been pulling in different directions on the conduct of the exams.
While a majority of the teachers want the exams to be conducted, a section of parents have opposed to such school of thought.
At least 7,000 Higher Secondary schools in the state have already compiled a detailed report based on the viewpoint of parents and teachers as directed by the Education department.
The report has already been submitted to the state government on Thursday.
The state government will conduct an online meeting of health experts, educationists, academicians and other concerned people along with the education department officials on Friday.
Sources in the Education department said that based on this online meeting a detailed report will be presented to Chief Minister MK Stalin on Saturday.
Vijayababu, Principal of a government-aided Higher Secondary told IANS, "When I personally contacted parents and teachers to compile the report for the state government, I could find that the opinion was divided totally.
While 100 per cent of the examination to be conducted, only around 20 per cent of the parents have agreed to the proposal.
Parents say that it is better to cancel the exams as they are more concerned about the health of their child rather than writing an examination."
The delay is creating a lot of anxiety among the students and parents alike.
Aabha Rajkumar, a Class 12 student in a government Higher Secondary school said, "I don't know what is in store for me in future. I had prepared well and is ready to take on the examinations but the uncertainty is killing me. If they are cancelling let them do so otherwise let them do it in a format that is comfortable to students, parents and teachers. If CBSE and ICSE exams are cancelled owing to Covid why not our exams."
The ultra Tamil nationalist organisations like the MDMK are keen that the exams are conducted.
MDMK leader Vaiko has in a statement on Monday called upon the Tamil Nadu government to conduct examinations for Class 12 students. He had charged that it was a deliberate attempt on the part of the Union government to implement National Education Policy (NEP) through the backdoor and that the Tamil Nadu government must not adhere to this.
Parents are however, worried over the health of the students and does not want to take any risk by sending their children to school to appear for the examination.
Rajani Arun, a banker at Chennai, said: "There is no need for the government to dilly dally on this issue. If CBSE and ICSE exams stand cancelled, why can't our government take a decision to cancel this examination Medical reports and scientific studies across the globe say that a third wave is imminent and that it will affect children the most. What guarantee can the government provide to my child that she won't get the disease after going to the school to write the exam."
Teachers insist that exams are conducted in some mode and total cancelling of exams will not do justice to the student community in the long run.
Raghavendran Manickyam, a Chemistry teacher with a Higher Secondary school, said: "The exams must be conducted, may be later but it has to be conducted. We have good infrastructure and we can hold the examinations adhering to all the Covid protocols. I strongly appeal to the government that the examinations are conducted so that a correct picture of the student is availed, otherwise the value of the education system is gone which should not happen."
Educationalists across the sector have welcomed the announcement that Class XII examinations for 2021 were being cancelled.
Praveen Raju, Co-Chair, FICCI ARISE and Founder, Suchitra Academy, said: "Given the current situation, it is the right decision to cancel the CBSE 12th Board exams. There is no way we could have held exams without compromising the safety of children. While we welcome the decision, we hope the modalities would be worked out quickly in consultation with stakeholders. Since 12th marks are an important factor affecting students' careers, we expect CBSE to ensure students don't get affected by the methodology of awarding marks."
Charu Wahi, Principal, Nirmal Bhartia School, said: "This is a decision taken in the best interest of the children. However, the next step is equally critical and crucial in deciding the process and criteria based on which the children's performance will be judged. This should be done keeping in mind that many of them make that extra effort during the last mile and should be given due advantage."
Another challenge that requires immediate resolution on the part of the education ministry is the compilation of the results for Class 12 students.
The government is yet to devise well-defined criteria for this.
Various stakeholders have urged the authorities to opt for more comprehensive measures, which justifies students' academic record and performance.
Adding to the concern, Shishir Jaipuria, Chairman of Seth Anandram Jaipuria Group of Educational Institutions, said: "The decision to cancel Class XII Board exams is taken in the interest of the health and safety of students and teachers. Many students and their parents will heave a sigh of relief. The uncertainty over the Class XII Board Exams happening during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic had many of them anxious and nervous. But now, we move on to the next challenge, which is to come up with a fair and reliable criterion for assessing the academic performance of these students. Deserving students must be allocated grades or marks on the basis of their yearly performance. It's a challenge that will require a great deal of meticulous thinking for arriving at a just criterion for academic assessment. I'm sure the schools and boards will rise to the challenge and deliver what is best for the students."
Furthermore, Vishnu Karthik, CEO, The Heritage Schools, highlighted the need for a new grading system accepted by both schools and universities.
"The decision to cancel the board exams has provided some clarity and assuaged stress levels among students and parents. It wouldn't have been an easy decision given the criticality of grade 12 exams on university admissions. The government did not have much choice as the health of students is paramount. The challenge now is for CBSE to arrive at alternative criteria to determine grade 12 marks. Any delay or any confusion on the new grading criteria will lead to more confusion and stress among students. Clear directions should also be provided to Indian universities to modify their admissions criteria so that meritocracy and fairness are not compromised."
Various universities and high education institutes have not only accepted the verdict on cancellation of the Class 12 examinations but are also committed to extending cooperation towards the students in their step ahead towards higher education.
With the delay in exams and results in the making, universities have adopted many student-friendly policies, including re-adjusting of their admission cycles to prevent students' careers and study plans from being jeopardised.
Expressing his openness towards the decision, Kunal Vasudeva, COO, Indian School of Hospitality, said: "We welcome the government's decision to cancel 12th class board exams. It is a well-thought decision and rightly reflects India's progressive stance about education at the policy level. Student safety is at the centre of all we are doing right now, and this move will certainly help reduce anxieties among both students and parents. This was the right call to take, and we are happy to adapt our admission cycle as per the new guidelines."
Niranjan Hiranandani, Provost, HSNC University, lauded the Prime Minister's declaration, mentioning that this decision will save from affecting millions of lives.
"The announcement repressed the uncertainty that would have otherwise affected the youth and also met the trending #cancelboardexams2021 demand of students and industry bodies while ascertaining that the academic calendar will not be affected further. The results will be compiled as per well-defined criteria by CBSE and will terminate the anxiety of stakeholders. I am happy that this decision is made in favour of India's future, ensuring their health is not at stake."
Hiranandani further added that now the universities should align with the well-defined assessment criteria to ensure a seamless admission procedure and welcome the upcoming cohort taking into account the current circumstances the pandemic has put us into.
Prof Milind Padalkar, Pro-Chancellor (Designate), The NorthCap University, also welcomed the decision and extended sympathetic support towards the students and families who endured emotional and financial hardship induced by the pandemic.
"Many have suffered the loss of their near and dear ones, and their grief is unimaginable. The disruption in the educational activity has been acute, and we cannot expect the students to be in a fit frame of mind to study and be prepared for the examinations. The Government needs to be complimented for having taken a compassionate view of the situation and reducing further health risks. We hope that CBSE quickly implements alternative mechanisms to assess the students reasonably so that their prospects for higher education are not impeded."
The education sector has shown solidarity towards the decision and hopes for the concerned authorities to devise and implement a progressive and inclusive assessment system.
Moreover, the industry leaders and educationists are visualizing the current crisis as a blessing in disguise, leading to more student-friendly education reforms that focus on boosting their future study plans and career ahead.
Students, teachers, parents and academicians in Tamil Nadu have requested the M.K. Stalin government to cancel the Class 12 board examinations taking a cue from the central government's decision cancelling both the CBSE and ICSE exams.
Muruganandam, a Physics teacher at a government school at Namakkal told IANS: "Children are under severe stress and anxiety and the government must take immediate steps to cancel the Class 12 board examinations.
"We can take the assessment of the past six or seven examinations and take the average. It is not possible at present to conduct an exam and postponing would lead to the suffering of next academic year and hence the solution is cancelling of examinations."
A similar demand is being raised by students, who are studying under the state board.
Soumitra Narayanan, a Class 12 student at a government-aided school in Madurai told IANS: "My friends in the neighbourhood and all those studying under the CBSE and ICSE syllabus are relieved of the tension but I am still facingnightmares whether or not I will have to give the boards.
"If every board were conducting exams then we could also have done the same. Let the government take a decision soon. According to me must be cancelling the exams."
The Chief Education Officers office have directed school teachers to submit the marks obtained by students in the last seven examinations to assess their performance.
MR Manikantan, Director, Save Education, Tamil Nadu, an organization working in the academic sector at Erode told IANS: "It is better that the examinations for Class 12 boards are cancelled.
"As the central government has already cancelled the CBSE and ICSE exams for 12th why is the state government taking time on a decision.
"Students are suffering and they are under huge tension. This will not do any good in the long run and hence immediate action is required, otherwise the next academic year will also suffer."
The government is taking opinion from all corners -- academic circles and political leadership before taking a call.
MDMK leader Vaiko has already called upon the Stalin government to postpone the board exams and conduct it once the pandemic situation comes down and had added that with a good educational infrastructure, Tamil Nadu can easily conduct the exams.
To reduce uncertainty among students, the Central government will take a decision on Sunday over proposals for the conduct of exams for Class 12th and entrance examinations for professional courses.
The decision will be taken in a high-level virtual meeting with Education Ministers, Education Secretaries and Chairpersons of State Examination Boards and all stakeholders of the States and Union Territories (UT), Ministry of Education said on Saturday.
The meeting will be chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in presence of Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank', Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Zubin Irani and Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar.
In view of the prevailing situation, almost all the state education boards, CBSE and ICSE have postponed their Class 12 examinations, 2021. Similarly, the National Testing Agency (NTA) and other National exam conducting institutions have also postponed the entrance exams for admissions to professional courses.
As the conduct of Class 12 examinations impacts upon state board exams and other entrance exams across the country, and to reduce uncertainty among students it is desirable that a considered decision based on inputs of different state governments and UT administrations is taken about Class 12 CBSE examinations in the interest of all the students across the country.
In a letter written by the Union Education Minister to states and UTs, he has stated that the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education and CBSE are exploring options regarding the conduct of examinations, keeping in mind the safety and security of the students and the teachers.
The Department of Higher Education is also deliberating upon the finalization of the dates of examinations for institutions of higher learning.
The letter has noted that Covid-19 pandemic has affected various areas including the education sector, particularly the board exams and entrance exams.
Amid surge in Covid-19 cases, the Haryana government on Friday announced closure of all colleges, coaching and training institutes, IITs and libraries till May 31.
Also, all anganwadi centres and creches being run by the Women and Child Development Department will be closed during this period.
Any person found violating the order will liable to be punished.
Even as the government school teachers have been assigned various jobs to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Delhi government is now giving "double trauma" to its teachers by sending them show cause notices for not reporting to work despite testing positive for coronavirus.
The Delhi government has deployed the school teachers at several places including makeshift hospitals, data recording of vaccines and oxygen, crematorium grounds to keep a tab and maintain data on a daily basis on the number of people infected with Covid-19 and people losing their battle against the virus infection.
About 90 teachers were asked by South East SDM BL Meena on April 20 to report for work at his office.
The April 20 order which has been seen by IANS said that all the teachers should report to their concerned SDM office on April 22 and the SDM office will assign them duties as per demand.
"Now therefore in exercise if powers conferred upon district authority under various provisions of disaster management act, 2005, read with the Delhi Epidemic diseases Covid 19 regulations, 2020 district authority, District (South East) hereby requisition the 90 officials or officers," Meena's letter read.
"The officers are hereby directed to report for duties on April 22 at 11 a.m in this office without waiting any formal relieving from their department, non-compliance will be viewed seriously and shall attract action under the provisions of Acts/Regulations," it further said.
The letter stated that 'this issues with the prior approval of District Magistrate (South East) chairperson of DDMA (South East)'.
However, some of the teachers who were posted by the SDM at various places, tested positive for Covid-19 prior to issuance of the order on April 20.
Sabina (name changed), who is a teacher at the Delhi government school in South East Delhi, is among the eight to nine teachers who have received the show cause notice from the SDM.
Speaking to IANS, she said that her family members had tested positive for Covid. And she also tested positive for Covid-19 a few days later.
"Soon after testing positive for Covid-19, I informed my head of school (HOS), the District Magistrate and the SDM on their email IDs with the Covid-19 report as attachment.
"However, I didn't get any reply from the SDM or DM office," she said, adding that on the contrary she received a show cause notice issued on April 27 to give a written reply within three days or action will be taken.
The show cause notice issued by SDM South East, which has been viewed by IANS read, "And whereas, it has come to notice that you have not reported for duty."
"It has been viewed seriously and accordingly, it is hereby directed to show cause as to why action should not be taken against you for dereliction of duties.
"A written reply in the matter should reach the undersigned within three days from issuance of this notice failing which it shall be presumed that he/she has nothing to say in the matter and necessary action shall be taken against him/her including discontinuation of service/disciplinary action or action under DDMA Act, 2005," the show cause notice by Meena read.
IANS has viewed more than 10 such notices across Delhi which have been issued to several teachers.
The school teachers said that after the government decided to close schools, the teachers were deployed for other work by the district authority. And even after submitting their report they are being traumatised by the SDM office with such show cause notices.
With the indefinite postponement of Class 12 board examinations in several states due to the pandemic conditions, students preparing to go abroad for further studies are in a quandary.
"Postponing the board examinations further will have a rippling effect on our careers because delayed examination will lead to delayed results. This will adversely affect the students' plans to prepare for competitive tests and secure admissions for Undergraduate (UG) degree programs in overseas colleges and universities, where the exams and classes might not get postponed because their classes and exams are being conducted via online platform," said Raj Kishore Dutta, whose son is seeking admission in computer science course in the US.
The academic calendar in America, Canada New Zealand and the UK begins in September. If the board exams are held and if the results are declared in time, it would allow students to apply to most foreign universities.
However, the time usually afforded for the application process would obviously be curtailed.
None of these countries have postponed the admission process yet.
Vanshika Singh who is planning to do a bakery and confectionary course in Switzerland and has got admission in Lucerne, is worried about whether she will be able to make it in time for the course.
"I have to clear my board examinations and then I do not know whether flights will open up by the time I have to go. My entire future depends on the pandemic because European countries are very strict about pandemic rules," she said.
Her cousin, Arpit Singh, is facing a similar predicament. He is scheduled to travel to Germany in August for a masters' degree in automobile engineering.
Though he is not worried about examinations, it is the travel restrictions that have left him scratching his head.
"I have managed an admission with great difficulty and cannot let it go," he said.
Dr. Sunita Gandhi, educationist, visionary, and founder of Global Dream Programme, Global Classroom Private Limited (GCPL) & Global Education & Training Institute (GETI), however, said, "Hard times have required hard decisions. Decisive and timely action was most urgently needed."
"It is a good step taken by the government as there are no easy choices and for Class 12, the window of 15 days' notice provides mental relief. Considering the situation, however, we all have to accept and bear it. This is disappointing for those children, teachers and schools who have worked really hard towards their goals," she said.
Nishi Krishna, a career counsellor, said, "Students have already suffered a year in 2020. The government should come up with an alternative way of conducting exams or marking procedures so that the students' academic year does not go waste-especially for those planning to go abroad for studies."