Want govt job? Have to appear for 10, 12 boards: Assam rule sees protests

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said the clause is specifically for those who sit for the Teachers' Eligibility Test (TET).

In June, when the Assam government finally cancelled the board exams due to Covid, much after other states had already done so, Ratnadeep Sen (15) and Saimeen Sultana (17) had been relieved. In Class 10 and 12 respectively, they hoped it finally meant end of months of uncertainty.

However, on July 1, when the government announced its evaluation criteria for the exams, they realised that was not to be. The criteria, set by two government-appointed special committees, carried a clause: the marksheets as per the new scheme would not be valid for state government jobs.

The reasoning, as per the clause, was that such recruitments are “substantially” based on HSLC (Class 10) or HSSLC (Class 12) marks, and hence students aspiring for teaching or other state government jobs would have to appear for a ‘special exam’ after the pandemic situation improves.

This special exam is to be held by September 15 (depending on the pandemic) — the same as the one for students not satisfied with the new marking system.

All those aspiring to become “teachers/employees in the Education Department of Assam or any other Department under the Government of Assam” would need to take the exam.

Sultana, a science stream student from Barpeta district, says: “First the exams were postponed, then they said they will be held for three subjects, then they said it was cancelled, and now this!”

She is currently preparing for engineering entrance exams. “While I may want to join an engineering college, what if I change my mind and want to become a teacher or apply for a government job? It will be hard to prepare for both school exams and entrance exams,” Sultana says.

Sen says his school in Hailakandi district has already begun online lessons for Class 11. “Now it seems like we have to study for Class 10 (exams) and Class 11 together. Government jobs are what most of us aim for, so of course no one will risk not sitting for the exam. I hope the government rethinks its decision.”

However, the government has indicated it won’t. Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said that the clause is specifically for those who sit for the Teachers’ Eligibility Test (TET), which gives weightage to Class 10 and Class 12 marks. “Since this year evaluation is based on school records, everyone in the batch will likely do well. So it is not fair to students of previous batches and coming batches who will sit for the TET,” Sarma said.

Assam had held out on cancelling board exams, announcing it would hold them between August 1 and 15, despite opposition from students, with some of them even moving the Supreme Court. Approximately seven lakh students (2.5 lakh from Class 12 and 4.5 lakh from Class 10) were meant to appear for the exams.

While the Covid situation in Assam is significantly better since May, a number of districts continue to report a high number of cases. On Tuesday, the government announced total containment in seven districts. The state currently has 22,897 active cases.

Student organisations, such as the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP), as well as opposition parties have demanded withdrawal of the clause.

Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia says that if the government wants to hold exams, they should do it for everyone, without compromising the students’ safety. “This uncertainty of having exams for some and not for others is not good. Many Class 10 students, especially in rural areas, feel the marksheet they get will be useless. This will lead them to drop out of school,” he fears.

An official from the Department of Education, refusing to be named, says: “We are forced by circumstances to assess them on marks they have got previously…” he says.

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