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Covid effect? States see increase in students skipping Class 10, 12 Board exams this year

The Indian Express analysed examination attendance data of 17 state Boards over the last few years to find that the jump in the non-attendance of students this year — over the pre-pandemic year of 2019 — is more pronounced for the Class 10 exams.

Board exams were disrupted in 2020 and 2021 during the first and second waves of the pandemic. (Express file photo, representational)

Education Boards of at least 10 states — Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal — have reported a high number of students who registered but didn’t turn up for their Class 10 and 12 Board exams held earlier this year.

The Indian Express analysed examination attendance data of 17 state Boards over the last few years to find that the jump in the non-attendance of students this year — over the pre-pandemic year of 2019 — is more pronounced for the Class 10 exams.

For instance, on May 7, Samir Ranjan Das, the Education Minister of Odisha, got a report that said 43,489 students, out of the 5.71 lakh students who had registered for the Class 10 state Board examination, did not turn up to write it. This was unprecedented, and the state government immediately directed district education officers to submit a school-wise analysis of the “missing students”.

Attributing the spurt in absentees to the Covid-19 pandemic, Das told The Indian Express, “The students missed their classroom lectures and lost the confidence to appear for the final exams. The students were in Class 8 before the pandemic happened, and missed classes for nearly two years. Many could not join online classes. It is a pan-India issue.”

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Board exams were disrupted in 2020 and 2021 during the first and second waves of the pandemic. Last year, most states cancelled their Board exams and promoted all Class 10 students. This year marked the first time since the pandemic that the Class 10 and 12 Board exams were physically held.

The high number of absentees this year has prompted several states to launch probes or internal investigations.

From 21,761 in 2019 to 42,521 in 2022, Tamil Nadu saw an almost doubling of absentees in the Class 10 final exams. The proportion of absentees, as a result, shot up from 2.2% to 4.4%.

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While the office of Tamil Nadu School Education Secretary Kakarla Usha did not respond to a request for comment, a senior official in the state education Board attributed the absenteeism to possible distress in families — “death, poor health of parents after Covid-19, and dropping out due to family migration”. The state, however, hasn’t instituted an inquiry into the high number of absentees.

In Assam, where over 14,000 (3.4%) students in Class 10 did not write exams this year compared to 6,488 (1.8%) in 2019, the Education Department is conducting an “overall review”.

After the Board results in June, the department even issued a show-cause notice to 102 government schools for poor pass percentages. Echoing Das, Assam Education Minister Ranoj Pegu said, “The pandemic disrupted the continuity in the education system. Many students did not study, and many lost the confidence to sit for exams.”

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The Maharashtra school education department has, similarly, initiated an inquiry. Almost 10,000 (0.7%) of the state’s Class 12 students who registered for the exams were absent versus 1,567 in (0.1%) 2019. School Education Commissioner Suraj Mandhare said it was “important to study” the data seriously as it “might lead to a huge dropout problem”.

While most state governments attribute the absenteeism to the disruption in teaching-learning during the Covid-19 pandemic, others say the students were probably expecting another year of online exams or even a cancellation of the exams.

Sharad Gosavi, chairman of the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, said students may not have been prepared for offline exams. Last year, Maharashtra, like many other school Boards, had cancelled both the Class 10 and 12 exams and tabulated results based on the performance of students in internal school examinations.

“This year, just before the Boards, we saw protests from several organisations that wanted exams to be held online. We think a lot of candidates had expected that offline exams would be cancelled this year as well… So there may have been students who filled the examination forms but didn’t turn up for the exams as they weren’t prepared,” he said.

While Chiranjib Bhattacharya, president of the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education, did not answer calls, senior officials echoed Gosavi’s view.

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A senior official of Telangana’s education Board cited similar reasons — disruption in classes due to the pandemic and expectations of students that the exams would be cancelled. Here, the absentees in the Class 10 Board exam went up from 1,585 (0.3%) in 2019 to 4,909 (1%) this year.

In Karnataka, where the Class 12 (or II PUC) examination recorded over 26,000 (3.7%) absentees, an increase from 17,553 (2.5%) in 2019, Ramachandran R, Director, Pre-University Education (PUE) Deparment, said one of the reasons for the high absenteeism was the introduction of a new provision in the state, wherein “a student was marked as absent even if they were absent for one subject”.

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“Besides, this year, we did not mandate 75 per cent attendance for students and took a last moment decision to allow all students to appear. The intent was to encourage students to attempt the exams,” he said.

Gaurav Agrawal, Director, Secondary Education Department, Rajasthan, did not respond to calls.

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(With inputs from Tora Agarwala in Guwahati, Arun Janardhan in Chennai, Santanu Chowdhury in Kolkata, Rahul Pisharody & Sreenivas Janyala in Hyderabad, Deep Mukherjee in Jaipur, Gargi Verma in Raipur, Debraj Deb in Agartala, Sanath Prasad in Bangalore)

First published on: 19-07-2022 at 04:50:09 am
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