NEW DELHI: The chorus for cancellation of upcoming board exams for class 10 and 12 grew louder on Tuesday in wake of the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases even as the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) said it has not taken any decision yet in this regard.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia appealed to the Centre to cancel the exams saying the examination centres can become super spreaders and alternative methods for assessment need to be explored.
CBSE officials denied any change in plan "yet" and reiterated that the arrangements are being made to ensure social distancing by increasing examination centres by over 50 per cent. The exams are scheduled to begin from May 4.
"The exams cannot be cancelled, these are subjective exams which are crucial in nature and cannot be conducted online. The board is taking all necessary measures as per COVID-19 guidelines.
The exam centres have been increased and all COVID protocols will be followed strictly," said a senior board official.
While sources indicated that the board may consider postponing the exams if the situation worsens, the official, maintained, "there has been no decision yet".
The board had earlier this month announced that if students fail to appear for ongoing practical exams after they or any family member testing positive, the schools will conduct re-tests for them at an appropriate time.
The CBSE official also did not comment on whether the same relaxation will be given to students in theory exams as well.
Earlier in the day, Kejriwal said that conducting the exam can contribute to large scale spread of the virus.
"Six lakh children in Delhi are going to write CBSE exams. Nearly one lakh teachers will be a part of it. These (the centres) can become major hotspots leading to large-scale spreading of corona. Children's lives and health are very important to us. I request the Centre to cancel the CBSE exams," he said at a press conference.
"Several countries have done it, some states in India are doing it too. Some alternative methods could be thought of. Children can be promoted this time on the basis of either an online method or internal assessment. But the exams should be cancelled," he added.
Sisodia, who is also Delhi's Education Minister, took to Twitter saying, "It is time that board exams be cancelled in view of increasing cases of coronavirus across the country. When whole year teaching learning did not happen the old way, then why we are adamant on conducting the exams the old way?" "If exams will not be cancelled then examination centres will turn into super spreaders," he added.
Last week, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi had urged Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal to intervene and direct CBSE to reconsider its decision to go ahead with the board examinations in May despite the "massive and uncontrolled" rise in COVID-19 cases.
The Shiv Sena had also written to the education ministry, requesting the government to develop a national consensus and possibly reschedule Class 10 and 12 CBSE and other board exams.
Over 2 lakh students have signed an online petition demanding cancellation of board exams and the hasthtag "cancelboardexams" has also been trending on Twitter since a week.
States including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Punjab have already announced changes in plans for board exams.
Schools across the country were closed in March last year to contain the spread of COVID-19 ahead of a nationwide lockdown.
Several states started reopening the schools partially from October last year, but physical classes are again being suspended in view of the exponential rise in coronavirus cases. Last year, the board exams had to be postponed mid-way in March.
They were later cancelled and the results were announced on the basis of an alternative assessment scheme.
India registered a record single-day spike of over 1.61 lakh new COVID-19 cases and 879 new fatalities due to the virus, according to Health Ministry data.