Some of the protesting students at Santoshpur Rishi Aurobindo Balika Vidyapeeth argue with a cop. (Right) Two groups of students — one (on the stairs) wanting to take part in an exam and the other opposed to normal functioning till the selection test impasse was resolved — argue with each other on Tuesday morning. (Biswanath Banik)
The West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education on Tuesday ordered a re-examination for the failed candidates at Santoshpur Rishi Aurobindo Balika Vidyapeeth, raising fears among many schools across the state that they may be armtwisted by students to follow suit.
The council said it had intervened on a request from the school but the manner in which it tried to resolve the issue, by almost putting the teachers in the dock, left many shocked.
“Students will no longer have any faith in their teachers’ evaluation if the council takes such a stand whenever failed students demand that they be declared successful,” said the headmaster of a Calcutta school who refused to be named for obvious reasons.
The council’s exam rules make it mandatory for every examinee to clear the selection test before he or she is allowed to fill in the form for writing the HS. And schools have the final say in deciding whether a student would be declared eligible or not to take the final exam.
“I don’t have a problem with the council sealing the papers and taking away the tabulations sheets, we are after all affiliated to the council. But the move puts a question mark on all the decisions we have taken. How will I run my school after this?” wondered Sreemati Ghosh, the principal of the Santoshpur school.
“All students will start protesting the moment they fare poorly. And their protests will be justified because of today’s outcome.”
Council president Muktinath Chatterjee said it had not intervened in the Santoshpur school incident on its own. “We decided to send two officials to the school following an earnest request by the headmistress and some of the teachers this morning.”
The same council had done nothing when the schoolteachers had made several distress calls on Monday night. The message from the council: try and solve the problem on your own.
But its Tuesday’s decision is being seen by many as a desperate attempt to bail out the failed students who had held Ghosh and her colleagues hostage on campus for more than 24 hours.
The council has advised the school to conduct a re-examination for the students who failed and those who were awarded grace marks so they could make it to HS 2013.
“The council has the right to interfere in an internal exam of a school if there is a specific complaint from students. At the Santoshpur school, we had asked the headmistress to find out a suitable solution when they had contacted us yesterday. But we had to send a team of officials when we noticed the situation was spiralling out of control,” Chatterjee said on Tuesday evening.
A teacher of the school said it was pointless for the schools to shoulder the responsibility of holding selection tests if the council declared them invalid on the basis of allegations. “The council has the right to take action against an affiliate it if it violates its rules. But we are shocked at the way the council took away our tabulation sheet and sealed the answer scripts on the basis of the students’ allegation. Such an act of the council will encourage the growing tendency among students to start agitations pressing for unjust demands,” she said.
“Two-thirds of the class of 105 should have failed but the teachers had shown leniency to ensure all of them except 29 could sit for HS 2013. This shows how sensitive teachers are to below-par students, but now such leniency is being interpreted as an anomaly,” said the teacher.
At a news conference this evening, the council appeared to be putting the schoolteachers in the dock to defend its decision. “We detected some gross irregularities in the tabulation. A student who had scored one in Bengali had passed but some others didn’t,” said Moloy Roy, the council’s deputy secretary and one of the members of inspection team.
Chatterjee claimed that when headmistress Ghosh was asked to explain “the anomalies” she admitted the school’s “fault”. Ghosh was not available to clarify her stand on the charge.
“The way the council went public about alleged anomalies will only help reinforce the impression that students can get away with anything in this state,” said Niharendu Choudhury of the West Bengal Headmasters’ Association.