It is unfortunate that the Madhyamik and Higher Secondary examinations have been cancelled in West Bengal in the second year of the coronavirus. The authorities, more accurately, had no option. Indeed, cancellations have followed almost in quick succession.

Barely a week ago, the Class 12 exam ~ the transition stage from high school to under-graduate studies ~ was cancelled both by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination.

The teachers and the taught will have to make do without conventional evaluation. The boards both at the national and state levels were in a fix.

Had the exams been conducted, it would have rendered the teachers and the examinees and also, of course, the parents more vulnerable to the potentially deadly affliction, not to forget the heightened tension.

The anxiety has been overwhelming and to the detriment of studies. That said, it is direly imperative for the CBSE, the Council and the state boards to firm up the praxis of evaluation, not just in West Bengal but throughout the country.

The new system, to which both the teachers and the taught are strangers, must be concordant with a well-defined objective criteria and must be carried out in a time-bound manner. Colleges and institutions that offer technological and medical courses ought also to be agreeable to the change.

Some schools may have completed the syllabus; many others alas have not. To that can be added the confusion caused by online instruction, which is no substitute for conventional classroom lectures and is beyond the means of a sizable segment of students, notably in the rural areas.

The new matrix of evaluation must be firmed up with urgent despatch and with suitable emphasis on the course content and standard of assessment.

The overwhelming anxiety may have been addressed at one level; it does persist in the matter of evaluation. A “stressful situation” for students has perhaps been avoided. To go ahead with the exams would have deepened the crisis that confronts public health. But the pursuit of a wholly revised format ought not to convey the impression that the Central Board, Council and Bengal’s state board are engaged in cutting corners.

The entities, that have a duty towards the students, face an intricate task in the aftermath of the cancellation and the revised terms of evaluation… on which will depend admission to colleges, both the general and of the specialised variety.

The cancellation and the revised format are unlikely to be universally accepted. Reservations there will be. And as noted in these columns, institutions that induct students on the basis of competitive exams must revisit their procedures.

With the brakes put on life, education could not possibly have speeded ahead.