Dubai: Indian students and schools in the UAE are awaiting the next steps for them after the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) class 12 final exams for the year 2021 were cancelled in view of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic situation in India. On Tuesday, the Indian government cancelled Grade 12 CBSE and Indian School Certificate (ISC) examinations, which were twice deferred earlier this year.
CBSE said students will, in lieu of exam results, receive grades based on “well-defined objective criteria in a time-bound manner”. Many schools expect this to be similar to the alternative process for Grade 10 CBSE exams, which were cancelled in April. Grade 10 students will be assessed out of a maximum of 100 marks for each subject, with 80 marks awarded by the school based on past exams held internally.
Too late for some students?
Commenting on the Grade 12 exam cancellation, the chairman of Gulf Sahoday, an independent body of all heads of CBSE schools in the Gulf Cooperation Council, including the UAE, said students who are not satisfied with the awarded grades will have recourse. Sanjeev K Jolly, who is also executive principal of GEMS Our Own High School — Al Warqa, Dubai, said: “Just like the case of Grade 10, the option for any student who is not happy with what result we [schools] finally give him or her due to the internal assessments, will get a chance to appear for a physical exam to improve his or her result if the child wants to, but that would again depend upon the situation in the country [India]. And that will again become possible after months, which will not be so helpful to students of Grade 12, as their university admissions by then will be already over.”
‘It’s not an eyewash for schools’
Vandana Marwaha, principal and director, Delhi Private School Sharjah, said: “I’m very happy as finally a decision has been taken and the cloud of uncertainty has been removed. For the students, it [the wait] was unending; they were under a lot of stress. They were stuck in between boards and their higher education.”
Marwaha added that schools now would have a lot of work in terms of awarding grades, which would be vetted by CBSE. “The board will come up with a formula, which will be beneficial for students and it will not be an eyewash for schools. They’re going to ask us to upload our work in their software, so the schools can’t play around with that. It brings credibility to the process. And keeping in mind we all were preparing for a public exam, we have enough data to help us evaluate students. We were able to conduct onsite as well as online exams, so we have enough data where we can evaluate grades.”
‘Closure for families’
Nargish Khambatta, vice-president — Education, GEMS Education, said the cancellation of CBSE and CISCE exams for Grade 12 brings “much-needed closure for families”. Khambatta, who is also principal and CEO of GEMS Modern Academy, a CISCE curriculum school in Dubai that offers the IB Diploma Programme as well, added: “We are pleased with the decision to prioritise the health and safety of all pupils.
"This is a year they will never forget, and it is a strong and poignant message to them, that their wellbeing and safety are most important to all. The wide and extensive consultations, we are sure, will result in a fair and student-centred assessment criterion for all our young learners. The announcement has brought much-needed certainty and closure for families who are already dealing with so much uncertainty. Now, everyone’s attention will be on the declaration of results for our students’ smooth transition to university.”
Mohammad Ali Kottakkulam, principal, Gulf Indian High School Dubai, said it is currently too early to assess the full fallout from the exam cancellation, as the grading criteria and results date are still awaited. “A full judgement on the impact of this result finalisation is difficult now as the criteria is yet to be announced. I am confident that CBSE authorities will soon release error-free criteria for the result finalisation for Grade 12, as it was done for Grade 10. I feel that the mechanism will not negatively impact the students who plan for competitive [Indian university entrance] exams like JEE and NEET, as they all will be able to meet the criteria required through this.”
At a disadvantage?
However, the “criteria could affect students’ score” and place them against any higher score of those students in India who come from schools that follow state boards there, as many state boards have already conducted the exams, Kottakkulam added.
Already admitted to university
At least one international university in Dubai had already announced, before Tuesday’s exam cancellation, that it would not require final CBSE results for final admission. Michael Lawson, regional director — Recruitment, Heriot-Watt University Dubai, said: “Given that these are unprecedented times that call for change, and in order to support our community of parents and students, we announced some time ago that we would be making admissions decisions based on school-assessed grades, such as grades during mock exams or pre-boards, as well as predicted scores. We believe these are good indicators of student performance, based on which we are able to make an informed decision.
"In fact, we have already admitted several students through this process, and will continue to do so. Student interviews will be conducted with our faculty where appropriate.”
Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO-principal, Credence High School, Dubai, said: “The pandemic has taught us to be prepared for the unknown. Likewise, parents, teachers and students must also keep the faith with regard to the calculation of results. CBSE will surely keep the interest of all students in mind and the university admissions will also plan for the next steps.”
Grade 12 students in the UAE had mixed reactions to the cancellation, with some relieved to see the exams finally dropped after months of speculation, while others worried over the “uncertainty” regarding next steps.
Dubai-based student Afthar Nawal said: “With a hope that everything will be back to normal soon, we spent a whole year of online classes working hard; saving our best shot for the last. We never knew things would change at the last moment.”
Afthar is unsure at the moment about his plans for further studies. “Planning for our higher studies is more difficult in the current situation. Different universities now have different scholarship plans, all based on different scores or mark sheets. Our results are likely to be declared before September, which is when most of the universities start their first semester. Board results based on our past [school-based] results can never compare to how much a student can perform in their final [CBSE or ISC Grade 12] exam. All my previous plans have been dropped so we have to make a new one — and quickly.”
‘I stand by CBSE’
Another Dubai student, Nikhil Mahendran, said the board took the right decision. “I am content and wholly stand with the decision taken by CBSE. Firstly, CBSE has prioritised our health over our examinations, which is remarkable. Secondly, it wiped out the anxiety and pressure students were facing on the indecisiveness.”
Nikhil will be enrolling in a professional accounting course in the UAE in July, from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). “It [the exam cancellation] is advantageous for me as I can now focus entirely on the ACCA course.”