The ICSE (Class X) exams began on Monday and the heat was the headline point from the test centres. Schools reported that signs of discomfort among students were apparent. The students were frequently taking water breaks and pulling down their masks during the 90-minute paper.
The ICSE semester 2 exams began with English language. Not all schools have air conditioned spaces and many students wrote the exam under notoriously slow school fans.
“Our rooms are ventilated but the heat was so severe that it was hitting our faces,” said one teacher from a north Kolkata school.
Even in old buildings with thick walls, it was uncomfortable for students.
“The rooms are usually cool but today there was too much heat. The students were in a positive mood but the heat made them uncomfortable,” said Jessica Gomes Surana, principal, Loreto Convent Entally.
One examinee said the paper was not tough but it was difficult to focus at times because of the heat.
It was already hot at 10-10.30am when students entered campuses. When they finished at 12.30pm, it was even hotter. Teachers said the students took some time to settle down and were drinking half a bottle of water at one go.
“They were carrying their own water bottles but that got exhausted soon. The school was providing them with water constantly. Usually, in a board exam, they focus more on the paper but clearly today they could not focus totally because of the heat,” said Terence John, principal, Julien Day School Kalyani.
John said the new pattern of questions in the split exam format may have added to the pressure, too.
The semester 1 exams conducted in November-December had only multiple choice questions. “They have lost the practice of writing long answers. The heat further slowed them down,” he said.
Before the pandemic, the board exams were held in February-March when the heat was not gruelling.
Anticipating the heat, several schools had made arrangements for air conditioned exam halls or rooms.
“Most of our students on the first day were in an AC hall but a small section was in a room without AC. From Tuesday, we have made arrangements for everyone to write the exam in AC halls because the heat is unbearable,” said Terence Ireland, principal, St James’ School.
The ISC (Class XII) exams will begin at 2pm on Tuesday. Parents and teachers are worried that ISC examinees will have to reach campus during the hottest period of the day.
The CBSE Class X and XII exams also begin on Tuesday.