Months after it imposed a blanket ban on any kind of talent search or competitive test by private agencies in schools, the Maharashtra State Education Department has softened its stand, following multiple requests from schools and educational organisations.

In a government resolution (GR) issued on October 4, the department has specified that the tests can be conducted ‘under certain conditions’, and only if they are approved by the director of primary education.

In January, the department had issued a GR, saying students can only participate in government-approved and internal tests. The ban on tests by private agencies had come in the wake of concerns that schools make students take multiple tests, to prepare them for competitive exams, putting tremendous pressure on them. Parents were also made to shell out huge sums of money for these tests. The government had imposed a blanket ban on these tests, following which several schools and organisations had written to the department, asking that these tests be allowed for the overall development of students.

Now, the department has decided to make some concessions and allow the tests, but only under stringent conditions.

According to the GR, there are three conditions under which these competitive tests will be allowed:

1) When an educational institution has more than 25 schools under it and wants the tests to be conducted.

2) If the tests encourage reading and are aligned to the existing syllabus, give information or test the knowledge of students about national heroes, are based on personality development and are being run on a no-profit no-loss basis.

3) If the tests are run by state-level teachers’ associations, which conduct state-level tests by getting subject experts to set the questions.

The agency/school/institution has to first submit an application for conducting the test to the director of primary education, who will scrutinise the application, and, if the application fulfils the above conditions, then will give permission for the test.

While submitting the application, the agencies have to specify the cost incurred in designing the tests and the fees that will be charged per student, keeping in mind that the tests will be conducted on a no-profit-no loss basis. The GR states that a list of authorised agencies/tests/competitive exams will be declared by the state education department but it would not be mandatory for any school to get the tests conducted by these agencies or compel students to appear for the same. The tests would be an optional activity and even if schools offer them, approval would be needed from the parents’ representative body.

In case if it is found that students are being forced to appear for a test, the secondary education officer of that district can send a recommendation to the director of primary education to discontinue that particular test/agency.