Published: 14th June 2021
Studying abroad: How the cancelled board exams and alternative assessment will decide Indian students' overseas admissions
The government has also given the option to students not satisfied with their alternative assessment grades to appear for the examination at a later date. What happens then?
After months of suspense, the Class 12 board exams have finally been cancelled. Not just CBSE and ICSE, various state boards too have decided to cancel the examinations citing the safety of students amid rising COVID-19 cases. But that's not all. A large section of students — those applying to foreign universities — were worried about their future plans had the board exams been postponed further. With colleges in the US, UK and other countries starting in September, the postponement of the board exams would have wreaked havoc to their study abroad plans. And while that may be true, it remains to be seen what alternative assessment criteria does the various boards come up with and whether that affects the foreign universities' final decision.
Some universities like the University of South Florida (USF) states that their decision to admit Indian students is independent of the alternative assessment results, but that the results of class 10 are what they're considering. "While it will not change our decision to admit students in 2021, we have to tweak our admission process for the upcoming year as our decisions are based on the results of class 10 and 11 and those exams too were cancelled this year," says Dr Glen Besterfield, Dean of Admissions at the university. A similar sentiment was echoed by University of Portsmouth Global Office Director Bobby Mehta. "We will be evaluating whatever the boards decide to produce in terms of results. We will do this whilst taking into account what the applicant achieved in their Class 10 exams," he says.
But this might not be the case with all universities. Leverage Edu, a consultancy platform that helps students with their plans to study abroad, says that universities will consider the results of the alternate assessment whenever it is held. "While universities abroad so far have assessed applications without having the need for the score, they would also need to recognise the alternative assessment method," says Akshay Chaturvedi, Leverage Edu's CEO and Founder. "While universities are open to process applications with provisional mark sheets and predictive scores, class 12 percentage is an important criteria for most universities and we don't see them assessing applicants completely devoid of that criteria," Chaturvedi adds.
Among them, is the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST). Its Manager of Undergraduate Recruitment and Admissions, Zorian Wong says, "We will be considering the Class 12 results generated by the respective examination boards for the confirmation of the admission offer." Like most other universities, HKUST will also not conduct any additional assessment test to complete the admission process, adds Wong.
Besterfield, on the other hand, says that the cancellation of board exams will certainly speed up the last stage of the admission process at USF as all that the students need is a pass certificate from their respective boards to confirm admission. "Before students can enroll and join an undergraduate programme, we need confirmation that the equivalent of a US high school diploma has been awarded to them. We are assuming that the students will now get their certificates well before the start of our Fall semester on August 23," he says.
Pooja Ram Jain of the Swiss Education Group also agrees. "The students can proceed with their admission process by submitting a successful high school completion certificate," she says.
But what if the students want to appear for the board exams? The government has given the option to students not satisfied with their alternative assessment grades to appear for examination at a later date. What happens to their admission then? Wong says that it doesn't matter to HKUST if students decide to take the exams or not.
When asked about whether USF will prefer students who've appeared for the delayed boards, Besterfield says, "We should respect each student's decision and not pressure them by expressing our preference for one over the other." Mehta also agrees that it's a personal choice. "I believe most students will be satisfied with the results they will be awarded and will be able to continue with their chosen higher education path whether in India or in the UK," he says.
But doesn't the alternative assessment have any value? It definitely does, says Chaturvedi. "What will be interesting to see is how the proposed objective and time-bound alternative to board exams plays out. The execution of this alternative will be more critical than the decision to cancel the exams," he adds.