The results of the Higher Secondary School Certificate assessment threw up an unprecedented 99.40 pass percentage bringing into sharp focus the objective of fairness in the criteria adopted. Incidentally, while the overwhelming pass percentage has brought in a sigh of relief to many students, gaping holes in what was initially believed to be well-defined objective criteria have taken a toll on many deserving students throwing their career plans in jeopardy.
How does one explain the law of averages imposed on institutes and its impact on students who are denied better percentages for the mere fact that the Goa Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education has set a threshold based on the recent results of that institute? By inventing such a protocol that is based more on the track record of institutes, the board has only denied students an unbiased and fair assessment.
If the well-defined criterion is truly well-defined, why was there so much chaos and confusion among teachers and staff who were handling the results? A day after the results were announced, it came to light that a different criteria was adopted by institutes in evaluation. While some institutes have done a scaling of all subjects, others have skipped evaluation of languages – French/ Portuguese/ Sanskrit. An all-subject assessment meant that students lost out on percentages.
Moreover, when the assessment has done the damage, the board has literally shut down windows of redressal. Students are now told that objections to individual results will be accepted till Wednesday (which turns out to be a public holiday). This is in stark contrast to what the 32-page circular to heads of higher secondaries stated. The directive dated 25th June 2021 clearly stated on pages 16 and 17 that written queries will have to be submitted to the head of the respective school and must reach the board within seven days of the results. There is a pre-condition to that too that a recheck of answer scripts will not be allowed and dispute resolution will only be for the correction of calculation errors.
The only practical route available for aggrieved students is to opt for a physical exam, but it appears the Board is discouraging this too by not giving a timeline, and instead subjecting it to easing of pandemic conditions. Mind you, there is a pre-condition here too that marks scored in the second examination will be considered and not the first assessment, making it all the more a risky gamble for those opting for an exam. A student-friendly approach would have been welcome here by allowing them to answer and better only those subjects in which injustice has been done.
The academic year 2020-21 was tough on students but has been even more challenging for teachers who had to dig through volumes of data and adapt to the dynamics of a frequently changing protocol. That’s not all. They had a monumental task of playing within the colour-coded boundaries pre-defined by the board overriding merit.
The Goa board has gone through the exercise mindlessly without factoring in the impact the results would have on students and their careers. A near-hundred per cent result appears good on paper, but underneath, the systemic failures are showing. The assessment throws open a host of questions: Has justice been done to students and is the criterion fair and square? Have meritorious students been treated truly on merit, or has the baggage of pre-defined averages weighed them down? And finally, is it right to deny them a fair remedial recourse? These are the questions that will need answers as another batch of students awaits their turn.