Calcutta, Dec. 19: Bengal education minister Bratya Basu today said only a school could decide which students would appear for board exams.
The minister’s assertion came a day after the HS Council dictated terms to a Santoshpur school and “proposed” a retest for students who failed to clear the pre-board selection test, triggering a chain reaction that spread to other districts today.
“The council has nothing to do with internal examinations conducted by school authorities. The authorities are free to take any decision keeping in mind the future of students,” Basu told The Telegraph this afternoon.
Till late this evening, the Santoshpur school authorities had not taken any decision on the 29 girls who did not clear the selection tests.
“We haven’t heard anything from the council since its two representatives left the school yesterday,” said Sreemati Ghosh, the headmistress of the Santoshpur Rishi Aurobindo Balika Vidyapeeth.
Basu’s statement marked a 180-degree turn from what council president Muktinath Chatterjee had said after some students — abetted by local Trinamul leaders and a section of guardians — besieged the headmistress’s room, demanding they be declared passed.
Education department sources said the minister — who was away from Calcutta yesterday — tried to control the damage by clearing the air today.
Damage had already been done by then as similar demands cropped up in schools in Murshidabad, Burdwan and also a school near Sinthi More, on the northern fringes of the city.
“What the council did yesterday was wrong as the rules do not allow it to have a say on which students would be allowed to sit for the board exams. As an affiliating body, their primary role is limited to conducting the exam,” said the headmaster of a city school.
“At best, the council officials could have offered to help end the impasse in their individual capacity. But they did not have the right to suggest fresh tests,” said a senior official, trying to distance the government from the council, an autonomous body.
Some school heads and academics said there should have been better co-ordination between the education department and the council as its decision came to be viewed as a government directive. Involvement of local Trinamul leaders — Trinamul student wing general secretary Shankudeb Panda was spotted outside the school yesterday — in the protest added to the perception.
The council officials had left the Santoshpur school premises with tabulation sheets and later demanded delivery of answer scripts of all the students at their Salt Lake office. This gave the impression the council would intervene in all schools with similar disputes, triggering the domino effect.
An education department official said they had received informal reports that protests were organised in schools to draw the council’s attention.
Minister Basu today said the government would not allow such protests in schools. “If students have any grievances over correction of answer scripts or other affairs, they will have to follow rules while bringing the matter to the attention of the school authorities,” Basu said.
The statements from the minister forced the council to change its tune. Council chief Chatterjee told a hastily convened media conference that the school was the final decision-making authority on pre-board selection.
“There is nothing binding on the schoolÖ. We are only requesting the school authorities to think about the students whose names did not feature on the list of successful candidates,” said Chatterjee.
According to him, the council “proposed” a retest after some students highlighted anomalies in tabulation. He said the council did not issue any written order to conduct fresh tests and denied that the “proposal” sparked the chain reaction.