The impact of the second wave of Covid-19 has been destabilizing for the student community. Last year’s tryst with online classes brought to fore various lapses including digital access and other inequities. This year is no better as they continue to wallow in confusion with the cancellation of Class 10 and postponement of Class 12 exams in the State. The recent decision by various boards and rescheduling of major entrance exams like JEE (Mains) and NEET have once again put students in the lurch for another year, with disruption in the academic cycle.
While online mode of teaching has its flipside, the crumbling healthcare scenario and a general atmosphere of despair has only made matters worse. From academic uncertainties to deteriorating mental health, students have been at the receiving end. Some have managed to cope while many haven’t. Kartik Patnaik (name changed), a class 12 student of DAV Public School, Chandrashekharpur in Bhubaneswar said the rescheduling of exams has upset the momentum of preparations apart from adding to the anxiety. “If board exams are conducted late, chances of date clash with JEE (Mains) are higher. The delay is also leading to a laid-back approach,” he said.
Another Class 12 student of DAV Unit-8, who wished to be anonymous, said he felt disoriented and started having panic attacks during the lockdown last year. “It was unsettling spending an entire year with a phone in front and a package of distractions. Online exams were more like a copy-paste project. Moreover, I couldn’t enroll for engineering coaching. At one point, I felt hopeless and depressed,” he said. Many students found their escape in hobbies or sports. Kaushik Swain, a class 12 student of Kendriya Vidyalaya in Phulbani, said while he is sticking to his time-table, he has resumed painting to ease stress.
Parents Worried About Grades
Guardians of students appearing for Class 10 and Class 12 boards are equally stressed as they feel evaluation on basis of pre-tests or other criteria would fail to do justice as compared to normal conduct of exams. Dr Soubhagya Manjari, an AYUSH doctor at Badamba, said, “My son is in Class 10. He prepared well but with CBSE cancelling the exams, I am worried about the results. He did not prepare for pre-boards and evaluation based on it will not reflect his merit.” Similarly, another parent Laxmipriya Biswal said,” My daughter was preparing well for Class 12 exams. But postponement has led to complacency and lack of motivation. Also, what if they are cancelled like Class 10 exams? How will they be assessed? Class 12 performance is instrumental in deciding a student’s higher education plans.”
Even as boards like CBSE and CISCE have assured fair and objective criteria for Class 10 evaluation, the stress of parents and students is palpable. Many students feel they did not give their best in the internal tests as they were focusing on board exams. This apart, delay in announcement of results could pose difficulty for those planning to switch boards after class 10. Tapan K Das, a Class 10 teacher at St Xaviers High School in Puri, agrees that internal assessment is inadequate to evaluate a student’s merit. “Internal tests amount to only 20 marks’ weightage. How can they evaluate the final marks on its basis? Many students did not even take the pre-board exams,” he said.
Impact on Mental Health
Needless to say, the vagaries of the current times have translated into poor mental health status of a large number of students. Director of MANAM Foundation, an organisation focusing on mental health, Dr Anuradha Mahapatra said there is a significant rise in students seeking help in the last one month. “There are two categories - high performers who are disillusioned with rescheduling of board exams and average students who are just confused and clueless,” she said. Dr Mahapatra informed that while MANAM is conducting online counselling for students, plans are afoot for webinars to deal with the situation. “We have written to many schools in this regard,” she said.
Sources said many students sought career counselling to gain some clarity on future course of action. However, not many had a good experience. Anushka Sathpathy, a class 12 student of city-based KIIT International School said she approached a career counselling firm to decide on her stream but was disappointed. “I spent `35,000 for 12 sessions in a year. But the outcome was nothing substantial. I could have figured out things myself without spending time or money on career counselling,” she said.
Like most students, Anushka too felt that her preparation for the Class 12 exams was not up to mark as online classes lacked discipline and made everything look optional. In Odisha, over 6.5 lakh students take the matriculation exam conducted by Board of Secondary Education (BSE) and close to 1 lakh take the CBSE Class X exams annually. Over 3.5 lakh students take the CHSE Class 12 exams. Their predicament notwithstanding, health professionals have warned against taking things too personally.
Psychiatrist and Director of Fortis National Mental Health Program Dr Samir Parik suggests utilising the resource system at hand and staying connected is paramount in these dire times. “Students appearing for major exams must realize that it is a level playing field as the pandemic is a global phenomenon. They are not alone in this. This realisation alone should make them rise to the occasion,” he said.
Clinical psychologist Kamna Chhibber echoed similar views. “Students must seize the day and utilise their time to build their skill base while focusing on their strengths. I suggest they use this as an opportunity for self-growth and take one day at a time,” she said, adding that they must seek professional help in case of persistent anxiety.
Stay connected with family and friends
Expand knowledge and skill base
Use free time as opportunity for selfgrowth
Include hobbies as part of daily curriculum at home
Focus on strengths while working on weaknesses
Reach out in case of persistent anxiety