Indian school community in UAE weighs up CBSE announcement on exams

NAT CBSE EXAM FILE-1618410054862
Students while taking CBSE exam at the Indian High School, Dubai. File photo
Image Credit: Antonin Kelian kallouche/Gulf News archives

Dubai: There have been mixed feelings in the UAE school community about the cancelling and delaying of CBSE exams announced on Wednesday, amid rising COVID-19 cases in India.

School principals and students here said there are both pros and cons to the situation. On Wednesday, education officials in India said Class 10 board exams were cancelled while Class 12 board exams were delayed under the CBSE.

What happened?

The CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) is India’s biggest school board with thousands of UAE students following the curriculum. The exams were due to take place in May and June — after being delayed before — but now have been cancelled for Class 10 and pushed back again for Class 12. An update on new dates for Class 12 exams is expected on June 1.

‘Good move’

Rashmi Nandkeolyar

Rashmi Nandkeolyar, Principal and Director, Delhi Private School Dubai, said: “For Class 10, it’s a really good move because this is an all-India exam, and the situation is quite dire in India. The leadership here in UAE has controlled the pandemic to a big extent so it would have been okay for our students here to sit the exams.”

Another consideration behind the move is the academic time that students would have had to catch up to as a result of disruptions since last year, she added. “Normally, by now we would have started Class 11 In April. But now it was going to start around the eight or 10th of June. So that to make-up that would have been difficult.”

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Wait and watch

Regarding Class 12, Nandkeolyar said the exams were “high stakes” as the students will be going to university after that. She added: “It’s wait-and-watch right now with respect to Class 12 exams. It’s a wise decision and the only decision that can be taken at this point. In case the situation eases [in India], then they can have the exams in June or July, because in any case, most colleges start only in September.”

Applying early to university

Students can meanwhile start applying to university on the basis of their previous results in internal results, she added. “All universities know that virtually every [school-leaving board] exam has been postponed or dropped. So all universities are in the mood to understand the situation.”

‘Unsettling ambiguity’

Nargish Khambatta

Nargish Khambatta, Principal, GEMS Modern Academy, described the Class 12 situation as unsettling. “Indian parents consider the Board examinations to be a major milestone, and students and teachers have worked very hard despite the pandemic. The call to postpone the high stakes Grade 12 CBSE examinations, and the ambiguity around it, is unsettling for students,” she said.

Focus on results

Meanwhile, the cancelling of Class 10 exams has “had a bittersweet impact, with some feeling relieved and others disappointed. The focus will now shift to the result declaration as the objective criterion is still under construction”, Khambatta said.

Data for marks

Lalitha Suresh

Lalitha Suresh, Principal, GEMS Our Own Indian School, said the school is favourably placed for criterion. “We have conducted a number of internal assessments and two pre-board examinations for our students. Hence, we have enough data for each child that will help us to allot grades and marks. We will wait for the board to send us the details of the objective criterion based on which the promotion can be conducted. This will also enable us to start [Class 11] for these students without any further delay,” she added.

Teresa Varman, Principal & CEO, GEMS Millennium School Sharjah, said the decision “to place the health, safety and well-being of students above all else has been deeply appreciated” by students and parents. Most schools, she added, start Class 11 classes based on students’ internal marks even before the Class 10 board exam results are released.

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Line of best fit?

“The cancellation of the CBSE Grade 10 Examinations has therefore come as a relief. While the postponement of the Grade 12 examinations will cause some disruption with regard to students’ future plans, it is the best decision given the present situation. We have every faith that the CBSE Board will always work in the best interest of all students,” Varman said.

Student reactions

There have been mixed feelings from students too. Dubai-based Class 10 student Cyrus Jaison said he was “shocked” to hear the news of the cancellation. He said the board exam would have been “more convincing” of the grades. Regarding the grading criterion, which will be announced to schools later, Cyrus said he is currently “neutral” regarding how useful it will be in place of exams.

Another student, T.S., who is in Class 12, said students will be rushing more for university application deadlines but at the same time now have more time to prepare for the exam as well. “So I have been mixed feelings about it,” he added.

A Class 10 student, Jerome, said he was “happy” the exams have been cancelled. Regarding the alternative grading system to come in its place,” he said “I’m sure they will clear it out”.

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