In Tamil Nadu, students of Classes 9, 10, and 11 were promoted to the next standard without any exams this academic year due to “unprecedented circumstances” brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, said Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, according to The Hindu.

“They have been promoted after taking into consideration the unprecedented circumstances, the request from parents and the opinions of the educationists,” the chief minister said in a suo motu statement in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly. He added that the state government will release detailed guidelines for awarding the marks.

Palaniswami noted that educational institutions were shut down for the 2020-’21 academic year as the pandemic raged through the country. “Students were given multi-vitamin and zinc supplements,” he said, according to The Hindu. “They learnt through Kalvi television and internet. The syllabus was reduced in view of the difficulties faced by them.”

The students will be evaluated on the basis of their marks on internal assessments, according to The Indian Express. The marks for the pending exams will be divided into two parameters. At least 80% of marks will be assessed on the basis of students’ performance in quarterly and half-yearly tests, and 20% of it will be attendance-based.

In March, the chief minister had announced that all students of Classes 1 to 9 in Tamil Nadu schools would be passed in their annual examination in the academic year of 2020-’21 as the pandemic affected normal operation of schools.

The Federation of Private School Associations, comprised of 6,500 schools in Tamil Nadu, on Thursday criticised the state government’s decision, reported The Times of India. The association also asked the state administration to stop politicising education of school students to garner votes in the upcoming Assembly elections. The state will go to polls later this year.

The association’s president, M Arumugam, told the newspaper that the government had made scapegoats of students, and that the move would have an impact on students as this was the second year that they have been promoted without annual exams. “What is the need for such a hurried decision? Arumugam asked. “That too, days after they announced that the Class 12 board exams would be held [in] May.”

The state government should have waited till May and if the situation was not conducive to conduct the exam by then, it should have been postponed by two more months till July before cancellation, the federation said, according to The Times of India. “Now it is obvious that students till Class 7 will also declared all pass,” it said, questioning the necessity of holding classes in this academic year.

The federation also said that this decision may come as a setback to private schools dealing with surmounting expenses, and affected cash inflow.

In the Tamil Nadu Assembly, Palaniswami also declared that the retirement age of all government employees will be raised from 59 to 60 years, reported The New Indian Express. This will apply to all employees retiring from service on May 31. The order would also be applicable to all teaching and non-teaching staff in government-aided institutions, and other bodies. In May, the state had increased the retirement age from 58 to 59.