`Age-over' SSLC applicants at risk

THRISSUR OCT. 5. A recent order issued by the Commissionarate of Government Examinations (CGE) may deprive many of the applicants belonging to the `private age-over' category the chance for appearing in the ensuing SSLC examinations. The scheme of giving permission for students belonging to the `private age-over' category was introduced when the Muslim League leader, the late C. H. Muhammed Koya, was the Education Minister in 1971, and ironically the curbs on this facility which had benefited thousands of students are being introduced when another leader of the party, Nalakath Soopy, is holding that post.

According to the earlier order which was in force till last year, students who have attained the age of 17 are permitted to appear for the SSLC examination even though they have not passed the previous classes like the eighth or ninth standards.

Though this was the general rule, the CGE was empowered to give relaxations in case of age as special cases for students whose names have been deleted from the school register for not attending the classes till the sixth working day of the academic year. Thus the students were able to get concessions in age for about two-and-a-half years from the stipulated minimum age norm of 17 years for appearing in the SSLC examinations. There were instances when even the students who had attained 15 years of age on June 1 were permitted to appear for the SSLC examination that year under the provisions of special category, though they had not passed the lower classes. This was a great boon to the students who had to interrupt their studies due to various reasons like poverty, prolonged illness, migration of parents and seeking of employment.

However, this year the CGE issued an order on August 1 amending the earlier rules in this regard. As per the new order, candidates who had failed or discontinued in any lower class in the year 2001-2002 will not be eligible to appear for the examination. Candidates who discontinue their study during 2002-2033 are not eligible to appear for the examination of March 2003. As per the earlier order, even those students who had discontinued their studies in lower classes were permitted to appear for the examination under the provisions of special sanctions.

Coming as it does in the middle of the academic year, the order has caused great agonies for the students who were planning to appear for the SSLC examination.

According to reports, thousands of students appear for the SLLC privately by obtaining special sanction every year. The argument of the authorities for amending the rules is that it was not fair to permit students who had passed the lower classes and those who had failed in these classes to appear for the SSLC examination the same year. But the argument loses sight of another fact that many schools have the practise of failing students in lower classes mainly to retain the divisions and to ensure colourful results in the SSLC examination.

There were several instances when the students who were defeated in lower classes had performed remarkably well when they appear for the SSLC examination privately. Even though this order has been issued in August it has not been made not known to the public or even to the institutions which prepare the students for the SSLC examinations privately. Many of them came to know of it only when they approached the CGE with the applications.

Many students and parents have approached the Government requesting to keep the amendment pending at least for this year. But there are also those who emphasise the need for giving such special sanctions at least till 2005 when the grading system will come into effect.

When the grading system comes into effect the very scheme of private registration in SSLC examination will have to undergo drastic reform because the scheme involves the evaluation of the students on the basis of their extra curricular activities as well.

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