Given that the baseline tests are being conducted for the first time in the state, minor hiccups were expected. However, having to face problems every few days wasn’t what education officials and school managements were up for.
It all began with the state government’s contradictory orders, first asking schools not to conduct any exam during festive periods and later making it mandatory for them to complete tests by September 30. The already delayed baseline tests were then marred by delay in question papers reaching the schools to the latest faux pas where local education officials denied question papers to schools other than state board schools.
Many representatives of CBSE, ICSE and IB board schools said that they did not receive the question papers and education board officials told them that the tests were not meant for their students.
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No-fail policy introduced a few years ago led to the introduction of baseline tests to check the basic competency of students. The competency tests are held to assess the learning ability of around1.5 crore students from Classes II to VIII in over 1 lakh schools across the state.
Aparna Morris, principal, SPM Public School, which is affiliated to the CBSE board, said she did not receive any instruction to conduct the tests. “If they ask us to conduct the tests, we will gladly participate,” she added.
At Huzurpaga School in Katraj, principal Bhagyashree Dudhate said that her school teachers had taken part in the training to conduct baseline tests and they were even taught to enter data in the SARAL (Systematic Administrative Reforms for Achieving Learning) system. “However, as our school is affiliated to the CBSE board, the baseline tests are not applicable to us as per the education board,” she said.
After receiving several queries from schools in this regard, Maharashtra State Council for Education Research and Training (SCERT) officials, who conceptualised and are responsible for conducting the tests, issued a clarification.
Govind Nandede, director, SCERT, said, “On Friday, we wrote to all the education officers, making it clear that the baseline tests are mandatory for all the student across the state, irrespective of their boards. In fact, we had made this clear during the training programme. It is surprising that we still received queries in this regard and this prompted us to issue the clarification.”
Nandede said after the schools complete the tests and announce the results by September 30, they have to enter data in the SARAL system — a mass database programme for students, teachers and schools which also includes a child tracking system as mandated under the RTE.
“If the tests are not conducted for students of other boards, their scores in the SARAL data will reflect as 0-0, which will mean they are not up to the mark. Therefore, we have asked all the education officers to ensure other board schools also conduct the tests,” he said.
SSC school principals said they have only received parts of the question papers. “Until yesterday, we only received the Marathi question paper and not the Maths paper. I have not checked today as we were busy in some cultural events. As of now, we have decided to conduct the language paper and start entering data in the SARAL system. We will wait for the Maths question papers,” said Tillotama Reddy, principal, Ahilyadevi Girls High School.
When asked if other board schools would get extension in deadline given the Ganeshotsav, Bakri Eid and Paryushan holidays in schools and taking into account
that many SSC schools have not received full sets of question papers, SCERT officials said they were in no mood to delay the process further.
“There are still 12 more days before the September 30 deadline. Therefore, there is no need for any extension,” said Nandede.