Yuvarani Kandavel, a 16-year-old student in Coimbatore was initially happy that Class X board examinations were cancelled, but after the initial sense of relief she is worried about the prospects of getting admission in a good institution.
“My school currently offers education only till Class X. So, I will have to look for a different school from Class XI onwards. Now if everyone has standardised marks, students like me would lose out,” she said.
Kandavel also plays basketball for her school and is hoping that this would her in admissions but she is worried that diligent students and backbenchers would end up getting similar average scores.
Many students fear that in the pandemic-hit academic year it would be difficult for schools to fairly evaluate students. Authorities in the education system were not willing to comment on the matter as they were waiting for more clarity from education boards.
The second wave of COVID-19 in India has derailed Class X examinations across boards including CBSE, ICSE and state boards in Punjab, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and Maharashtra.
Every year, about 1.8 million to 2 million students each write the CBSE and ICSE Class X board examination. Over and above this, there are an estimated 5 million students from other state boards writing the examination.
Students will now be marked based on the basis of internal assessment and past performance. Based on these parameters it is likely that a standardised score will be given but many have raised concerns that this may work against students in good schools which have a tougher, more rigorous evaluation system.
This also means that admissions to Class XI or junior college (in Maharashtra) will get tougher although in many parts of the country school education continues up to Class XII.
Sources told Moneycontrol that schools may even have online aptitude tests for admissions.
“If all students score similar grades, what about candidates like me who have been consistent? We will face tough competition and may not even get into the junior college of our choice,” said Kester D’Souza, a 16-year-old student from Pune.
D'Souza wants to pursue the commerce stream but is worried that he may have to settle for humanities due to tough competition.
What will change?
Normally, admissions to Class XI are purely based on board examination scores, which also determine whether a student gets science, which usually require a higher score, commerce or the arts stream.
Educational institutions are likely to introduce their own rigorous admission criteria in addition to the scores they get. They are considering online aptitude tests and virtual interviews.
"Typically, if a student scores 90 percent and above in their Class X board exams we know that he/she has their concepts clear and would have the requisite aptitude to pursue high intensity Science subjects. But now, there is no way to find out and hence some form of assessment is necessary," said Tanuja Soni, the principal of GKS Public School in Delhi-NCR region.
Initially, the plan was to have higher scores for students pursuing extra curricular activities. But considering that no major sporting event happened in 2020 owing to the pandemic, that plan was quickly scrapped across schools.
"The admission assessment will be objective so that students don't have to write lengthy exam papers. We just want to test the basic knowledge and interests of a student before allotting education streams for Class XI," said K Saifuddin, chairperson of the school board at Little Angels School in Bengaluru.
What is the impact on students?
Pratisha Ganguly, the mother of a 16-year-old girl in Cooch Behar, West Bengal is worried that her daughter will suffer since she had tested positive in 2020.
"The pre-boards were cancelled in 2021 and my daughter Preetha had missed two papers in 2020 since she was unwell. No re-test was taken then and I am worried if that will adversely impact her scores. She is ready to give the exam now if the school considers," said Ganguly.
Her daughter is planning to pursue a Science course from Kolkata from Class XI onwards and thereafter study medicine.
For students like Preetha, Kester, Yuvarani and millions of others it is going to be a tough year for admissions.