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Strike shadow on ISC exam
- Council in a fix over changing calendar

Bengal is bracing for its longest shutdown in 47 years, leaving schoolchildren set to write their ISC and other exams on February 20 and 21 worried and wondering what they have done to deserve such irresponsible decisions.

The Left Front on Tuesday threw its weight behind the all-India trade union strike on February 20 and 21, a move that has all but ensured a total shutdown in the state, besides threatening the academic calendar.

Students preparing for the ISC exam will be the worst sufferers should the authorities be forced to reschedule three papers — environmental education Paper I (theory), environmental science Paper I (theory) and art Paper III — slated for those two days.

“We are worried because we know how a bandh in Calcutta can bring the city to a halt. The environmental science paper is as important to me as any other subject,” said an examinee from Julien Day School.

Lipika Ghosh, the principal of St. Xavier’s Institution, Panihati, expressed concern about the safety of students on the strike days if the authorities decided to stick to the exam calendar.

“How will the children reach school if there is a shutdown? What sort of politics is this?” she demanded. “It is surprising that nobody is bothered about the students who will write their most important school-leaving exam on those days.”

St. Xavier’s Institution has 14 examinees for the environmental science Paper I on February 20.

Few schools offer environmental education, environmental science and art as elective subjects but the number of examinees in these subjects — around 200 across the state this year — is not germane to the issue.

“It is not important how many children will write those papers. Even if a single student is to appear for an exam clashing with a strike day, the anxiety wouldn’t be any less for us and the parents,” said a veteran teacher.

Exams apart, the proposed two-day strike has already disrupted the academic calendar in schools, colleges and universities.

“We had planned to start the BSc Part III practical exam on February 20. But now that we know a strike is on the cards, we have been forced to postpone it,” said a senior official of Calcutta University.

Any such postponement will affect about 35,000 BSc Part III examinees because a delay in starting the practical exam would shorten the gap between the completion of that test and the start of the theory papers. “In effect, it means less time to get over the stress of the practical exam and prepare for the theory papers,” a student said.

The heads of some ISC schools said they called up the CPM headquarters on Alimuddin Street on Wednesday to enquire whether the strike will affect transport in the city.

“We are trying to request the political parties that have called the strike and also the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations to take appropriate steps to ensure that our students do not suffer,” said H.P. Das, the principal of St. Stephen’s School and convener of ISC exams for north Calcutta.

Gerry Arathoon, the chief executive and secretary of the council, was unavailable to comment. A source in the council said the strike call had put the council in a fix. “Pushing back any paper at this stage could lead to the ISC exam (originally scheduled to end on March 25) clashing with national competitive exams slated for the first week of April.”

Many schools held emergency meetings with their teachers on Wednesday and decided to reschedule their annual exams. The tests slated for the strike days could be held on a Saturday.