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‘Board Exams Cancelled’ Didn’t Govt Learn From Same Plight In 2020? Ask Angry Board Moms

Posted: April 16, 2021

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Board exams cancelled / postponed. Again. We did this in 2020 when the pandemic first struck. This lack of foresight by boards and the Govt has angered moms whose kids were to take exams this year.

2020 was annus horribilis. But as a new year dawned, there were hopes of the pandemic becoming history, especially with the vaccines coming in. These hopes were dashed when there was an upsurge in numbers towards the end of March, putting the students and their families at risk of infections during the boards.

As mom communities across the country voiced their concerns vociferously, board exams were cancelled or postponed, after much dragging of feet by the central govt. While this decision is a big relief for Grade 10th children, the agony festers for grade 12th children, with their future college admissions in limbo.

As the admin and founding member of SeniorSchoolMoms, and having been a board mom in 2020, I remembered how we had felt completely at sea, lockdown having been announced in the middle of the ongoing boards. So I was very concerned, both about the children and mothers in my group. Most moms, the ‘default’ parent to take on these responsibilities in a patriarchal society like ours, have paused their lives, adjusted their work schedules to support their children. I wanted to know if there was a sense of relief, anger, or sheer frustration at the wastage of time and effort put in.

Furious moms of grade 10th & 12th students speak up

This time as well, I asked the moms of class 2021 how were they coping. Has the experience of the class of 2020 been of any help?

Most grade 10th moms were happy because in the larger scheme of things their exams were irrelevant, and many of them felt let off the hook. On the other hand, Grade 12th moms are understandably furious. Will the pandemic suddenly take leave of us in two months paving the way for a smooth exam process, that the boards are speaking of a later exam? Or are there more shocks in store?

Lack of clarity and lack of proper planning has been the twin leitmotifs of the educational boards. Imagine staying motivated when there is no firm plan of action the offing! One mom, whose child broke down after the announcement asked, “Why subject our children to such extended periods of unnecessary anxiety, and mental stress, especially when the medical fraternity had been warning about a virulent second wave?”

Mrudula Shekhawat declared, “I’m tired of 2021 already! Students represent a vulnerable group of the population, they should have been somewhere on the priority list and not just an afterthought.”

Anju Naithani is bitter when she talks about her grade 12th daughter. “My daughter has reached a saturation point where she cannot study any further. Could we have pre-empted this situation by making respective schools the exam centers or by conducting online exams? We did have year-long online classes!”

On the other hand, grade 10 mom Cincy Mary is relieved, but feels that “this  anti-climactic ending to 15 months of hard work is not palatable.” She’s hoping to detox once her son’s model exams get over. “Once my boys get busy with their activities, I will pamper myself with well deserved me-time,” she says.

Ritu Garg, who has handled her son’s angry outbursts with patience contends that life is unpredictable. “I am happy that boards or no boards, my son who’s been the year long topper at school, has put in his best.” For Madhvi Gupta Khandelwal, the cancellation of exams had brought in a mixed bag of emotions- frustration, relief, sadness, happiness, disbelief, disappointment, anger, a feeling of getting cheated.

Most moms pressed the pause button on their lives – with no relief in sight

As a board mother, I remember, I had pressed the pause button on my life. We strove hard to create a conducive atmosphere at home. My husband and I even fought silently with WhatsApp emojis as our arsenal, if we had to. For the class of 2021 moms too, halting their lives seems to drag on with no relief in sight. This is beginning to affect their mental wellness.

On the other hand, the worry about the methodology that will be used for result calibration like last year, is constant, because the Grade 12th syllabus been already slashed drastically.

The iffy exam schedule is nerve-wracking. Many children have confirmed college admissions and financial planning is already in place. Many moms like Shefali are now drafting letters to various universities in the UK, US, Canada, apprising them of the current situation, asking guidance for the next steps, and hoping for deferred admissions. A worried Anju is exploring various college options, though their first choice remains the Delhi University with its stratospheric cutoffs.

As a mom of the class of 2020, I had applied to multiple colleges, just to make sure, my daughter had continuous education. Likewise, many moms have taken early admissions in various private institutions. Delhi University with its daunting cutoffs finally came to the party, by talking about admissions with entrance exams. All that is now highly nebulous.

Staying motivated has become the biggest challenge as various entrance exams are getting postponed. Mrudula’s pain is palpable when she says, ‘The boards have trivialised students’ efforts, it is very demoralising for them.” But as Gul Marwah says “there is a slender hope of doing better with the time gained.”

Some taking this break in their stride too

On the other hand, there were also moms who were happy that the exams were canceled (this number is minuscule though). Saved them the worry of infection. After all, the class of 2020 did find its groove after multiple curveballs. Moms class of 2021 are now using the tested templates of the class of 2020.

Kavitha Yarlagadda, an author, has gifted some books to her son to unwind. Arvinda Madan, an artist, who has juggled her day around her son’s classes says, “Survival is paramount. I’m ok with a break-year. My son can use this year to learn survival skills.” She trusts the process to find solutions to the uncertainty of college admissions.

Ruchi Singh, a nature enthusiast, gave her son his gaming console to unwind the moment the announcement came in. “My husband and I try to alleviate our son’s stress about his future by constantly counselling him. Communication is the key.”

I have always shared that I used the lockdown break to teach my daughter not to cut corners. She learned to be self-sufficient. This year too, moms are planning to teach their kids the importance of budgeting, basic cooking, life skills, meditation, etc. Holistic development and wellness of being are their prime goals.

Sangita Wahi Mohin, Founder, Green Street, hits the nail on its head when she points out that many from the class of 2020 have not seen their institutions even once in the last academic year. Hopefully, the class of 2021 will have it better. That is a hope.

While many moms and their children are making their peace with the situation after the initial shock, the rage of many is real, though they are preferring to move on, making requisite lifestyle changes.

‘The class of 2020 who had it worse’

Class of 2020 had a forced break of six months. When the college admissions opened, after the initial panic attack over the soaring cutoffs, eventually most of the children found their academic space. There were enough college seats available, provided the goals and dreams were recalibrated.

Agreed 2020 was a terrible bouncer thrown at us, but we coped, we learned and completed an academic year to the best of our abilities. Sadly for 2021, we haven’t seen any plan B from the various exam boards except cancel/postpone the exams, and being in a constant preparatory mode is a big toll on the children’s psyche.

Like last year, all the exams will happen eventually. Results will be declared with some Greek looking calibrations. Sadly, only the mentally toughest will ace. That is the question most moms are asking themselves. Are their children tough enough to survive this constant flip-flop of policy decisions?

My two bits here as a war veteran mom (Class of 2020 mom)!

Firstly, all parties need to think from the perspective of the child who is the main stakeholder and who has been through the wringer. We need to listen to their opinion, their perspectives on the exam policies.

Secondly, we all deserve a massive break. Daily goals sadly have transformed into just being present for the day, not cracking up, and definitely not get infected. One day at a time. Let there not be any pressure on the children for some time at least to study!

Thirdly, utilise this break to connect and communicate with each other. In crunch time, it is the family that counts.

Fourthly, Please make your children read – anything goes, whatever catches their fancy – Build upon their linguistic skills. It will help in college admissions immensely. It is also the time to start working on selves, our goals, dreams, and aspirations!

Finally, we are there in this together. Let us learn from each other’s experiences, support each other

Let us mask up, social distance, sanitise!

Eventually, though it seems highly unlikely now, it will all work out!

Image source: a still from the film Hichki

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Anupama Jain is the author of * ‘When Padma Bani Paula', listed as 'One of the

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