How a Dubai school prepares to re-open
In Dubai, principals of schools following the ICSE and ISC curriculum welcomed the decision to postpone both the board exams in view of the massive spike in COVID-19 cases across India. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Courtesy: Stefan Lindeque

Dubai: The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) announced on Friday that board exams for class 10 Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) and class 12 Indian School Certificate (ISC), scheduled to be held from May 4, 2021, have been deferred. The decision was taken in light of the massive surge in COVID-19 cases in India, CISCE said in a press release.

CISCE said it will closely monitor the COVID-19 situation in India and the postponement of the exams will be reviewed and a final decision will be taken in the first week of June.

Dubai school principals react

In Dubai, principals of schools following the ICSE curriculum welcomed the decision. Speaking to Gulf News, Nargish Khambatta, principal and CEO of GEMS Modern Academy and vice-president – Education, said: “High-stakes board examinations are important, especially for the grade 12 ISC students in terms of university admissions and potential career choices. Given the current spike in cases in India, one can understand the decision to defer the exams and review the situation on June 1. Our students are being given ample support to navigate these stressful times with emphasis on wellbeing programmes and continued support.”

Nargish Khambatta

Khambatta, however, raised some questions. She said: “Grade 10 ICSE students have been given a choice by the council (CISCE) to appear for onsite exams or not to do so. From an educator’s perspective, this raises two questions: Firstly, are the children old enough to make that decision? We will certainly support them to be able to make the right choice. Secondly, with the exams being delayed, how will teachers cover a ten-month curriculum in 6 months [for the new batch of students]? Our teachers have a backup plan and this will be a good opportunity for the council to overhaul the core curriculum and keep it relevant.”

Khambatta added: “We will do all we can to keep students calm, positive and focused. These are ‘VUCA times’ — where the situation is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The skills our children are learning will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.”

‘Wise decision’

Sheela Menon, principal at Ambassador School, Dubai, added: “Health and safety are undoubtedly the priority over examinations, under the current circumstances. Considering the surge in COVID-19 cases across India, the decision to defer the examination is wise.”

Menon also had a word of caution, noting that the option provided to grade 10 students may turn out to be unsettling for them. “Moreover, schools will have to decide their plan for grade 11 classes. It might be another year of disappointment for grade 12 students, considering the plans they have for higher studies,” she explained.

Sheela Menon

Menon added: “At Ambassador School, for both for grade 10 and 12, since the classes were conducted smoothly in accordance with distance learning or according to a blended-learning model — thanks to the UAE government for ensuring strict measures to control the pandemic — the students had appeared for multiple pre-board examinations and we have the relevant data to share with the council. We hope and pray that the situation becomes better and students are able to return to their normal routine.”

‘Under control’

Lata Nakra, principal of JSS International School, also felt that the situation in the UAE was under control. She told Gulf News: “Keeping in mind the surge in COVID-19 cases across India, it is good that the council has taken the decision to defer ICSE and ISC examinations, prioritising the health and well-being of students. In the UAE, however, the situation is well under control — thanks to the proactive measures taken by the government.”

Lata Nakra

“Having said that, students have worked hard and looked forward to proving their mettle in the board examinations. This postponement might only extend the anxiety that students and their families are going through,” Nakra commented.

“Nevertheless, with the past years’ experience, it may not come as a surprise for the students as they have learnt lessons in resilience through the pandemic. We are confident that they will take it in their stride and emerge successful” she added.

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Nakra is also confident that “whatever will be the decision of the students or the council, we are sure that schools in Dubai will extend the required support in the best interest of students’ wellbeing and academic achievements.”