03 Jun 2021 16:16 IST

Holding CA exams in pandemic times

Expecting conducive atmosphere around July 5 for holding exams,says ICAI President Nihar Jambusaria

Amidst a situation of uncertainty on how the second wave of Covid-19 will pan out in the coming weeks, the CA Institute has decided to go ahead with its exams on July 5. BL on Campus caught up with ICAI President Nihar Jambusaria to understand the thought process behind this decision and related issues. Excerpts:

There is still uncertainty on if and when Covid-19 second wave would flatten. What has prompted you to hold CA exams on July 5?

So far as CA exams are concerned, nobody in uncertain times will plan for exams. But you must look at our strength, which are the number of students appearing. We would not like to merge this with our November exams. If this trend of today — lowest daily new Covid cases in last 50 days and vaccination drive continues, we should be seeing a conducive atmosphere for holding exams like how we saw in November last year. We are prepared to follow all Home Ministry laid norms again like last year. We will take adequate care and organise exams in a systematic manner like last year.

Going by the experience of last year, do you think students can still study and appear for their upcoming exams without any apprehensions?

For students, the only message I have is that they should continue studying for their exams. Last time when we postponed it, there were only 23 days left for exams. But this time we had promised them that there will be minimum 25 days' time given to them for preparing. Now they have more than 25 days to prepare. So I’m sure they will prepare well.

What if your expectations don’t come true and Covid cases again rise?

Then there is no option but to go with what government decides. If lockdown does not open up, then we may have to further postpone it. You will appreciate that we will have to mind our sister institutes (Cost Accountants and Company Secretary Institutes) also. Since in first fortnight of July, they don’t have their exams, we thought we can schedule it. We will, of course, keep a watch on the Covid situation and Government announcements on lockdown. But as of now we are confident that conditions around July 5 will be conducive for holding exams.

Do you anticipate any legal challenges to your decision to hold exams on July 5?

Second wave is now on the receding side. Doctors and scientists are hoping that third wave will not be there before October. Let us hope it is not there at all. We are not going to conduct exams in violations of any rules that government makes. Last time also some students went to Supreme Court. We were able to convince the apex court that all rules and guidelines were being followed and Covid-19 protocols were being adhered to at our examination centres. Normally we would have 475-500 examination centres. Last time we had 1,084 exam centres. This year also we will follow all rules laid down by Health Ministry and Home Ministry. We will not violate any rules and conduct exams. I don’t think there will be legal challenges this time round.

You have set up a committee to review education and training (CRET) to revamp the curriculum and training modules of CA course. When do you expect this report from the committee?

Normally, it takes a year to complete the entire exercise. However, we will put it on fast track. By the beginning of next year, we expect it to come to the council and then we will submit it to the government for approval. Its syllabus will be implemented in another one year. For actual syllabus to get modified, it may at least take two years from now. This is not a routine revision, but we are reinventing our education and training in line with current day needs.

What will CRET do on the training module? Do you think a post-pandemic world will require different approach to training?

Technology will now be implemented by CA firms, businesses and industries in a big way. So we are expecting that working from home will become a normal at least two to three days in a week. After the pandemic, students will have to learn all the skills including communicating online, to attend meetings online and all this will become part of the training. CRET will certainly go deep on these aspects.