University examination guidelines that score low

#GS2 #Education #Governance

 

Context

  • According to an official statement from the University Grants Commission (UGC), final year university examinations may be postponed until the end of September 2020 but must be conducted in either online or offline mode.
  • Students who are unable to appear for these examinations will be given the opportunity to appear for special examinations which will be conducted later.
  • The Home Ministry has also given its approval for the conduct of the examinations in a letter to the Ministry of Human Resources Development and directed that final term exams must be “compulsorily conducted” as per UGC guidelines.

Why was this decision taken by UGC?

  • There had been a vociferous demand from a section of students and parents to cancel the examinations due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and use alternative grading mechanisms. At least seven state governments have already announced the cancellation of examinations.
  • However, the UGC decided that it was important to “protect academic quality and credibility”.
  • It further said it was “very crucial to ensure academic credibility, career opportunities, and future progress of students globally”.
  • UGC Act 1956
  • The UGC was fundamentally meant to be a fund granting institution as is clear from its nomenclature. But the UGC Act 1956 does confer on it the power of ‘coordination and determination of standards’ in universities as well and, therefore, it has become the regulator of higher education.

 

Issues surrounding the Indian education system

  • Most examinations in India merely test an ability to recall facts or information rather than an understanding of those facts or an ability to use them in practical situations.
  • Teachers usually are trained to set papers for the offline mode and transition to online mode may be a bit difficult.
  • Certification through examination is important but cannot and should not be the sole goal of education.
  • A one size fits all cannot apply to our universities as we have all kinds of universities, i.e. unitary, affiliating, private, and subject-specific.

 

Criticism

1. Importance should be given to cooperative federalism

  • Before the new UGC guidelines were released, many State Governments like Rajasthan, Haryana, and Maharashtra had already canceled examinations for final-year students.
  • Their decisions should be respected and not be dominated, by respecting the principles of cooperative federalism.
  • This creates fresh uncertainty for states that had already decided to cancel exams.
  • With the UGC recommendations in logger-heads with the decision of the States, students and parents are worried about the situation and are requesting clarity.

 

2. The shadow of the virus

  • India has nearly one million cases of the novel coronavirus and a number of State Governments are enforcing periodic lockdowns to prevent the spread of the disease. So, the September 2020 deadline does not inspire much confidence.
  • If the virus continues to spread, university administrations will not be in a position to announce examinations, and students will continue to be in limbo about their future.
  • It will compromise the safety of students.

 

3.Furnishing Proof

  • The guidelines state that the decision has been taken keeping in view the future of the students — jobs and higher education — these prospects are, in fact, harmed by this decision.
  • In normal circumstances, examinations would have been conducted and either result announced or provisional certificates given by this time.
  • These help students who are graduating confirm their admissions in institutes of higher education or report at their places of employment by providing proof of them having completed the course.
  • The current system does not provide for any such possibility.

 

4. More discrimination possible

  • In case the infection does not subside, it would mean that the UGC either extends the deadline further or universities are forced to conduct online exams.
  • In the latter case, the UGC would have imposed a patently discriminatory policy on the students — issues with access to the Internet, electricity and study materials, as well as a lack of a study environment in homes would go unaddressed — and it would only manifest the disparity prevalent in the education system.
  • In the former case, it only furthers the uncertainty, and even if the UGC decides to allow universities not to conduct examinations, this entire exercise would be pointless.

 

5. The privileged class have an advantage over the poor

  • The elite, with the privilege of being unaffected by the crisis caused by the infection as well as its economic ramifications, will be much better placed than their peers without the same level of assuredness. The whole purpose of the university acting as an equalizer will be lost.
  • Students from a humble background, from remote areas and those with doctors/health workers as parents or are coronavirus positive in families would be at a disadvantage.

 

 

Advantages of canceling examination amidst the Covid-19 crisis

  • It avoids the extended uncertainty created by repeated (but unavoidable) postponements.
  • It protects the integrity of the examination by refusing to abandon its two most basic features – impartiality, or equal treatment of all examinees; and close supervision to prevent cheating.
  •  Given the realities facing the overwhelming majority of our students and institutions, examinations held in the “online” or “mixed” modes will be biased because they will favor students with better access to the internet.

 

Way Forward

Using alternative methods of evaluation based on each student’s own past performance (in exams conducted in normal times) offers a fair solution and brings closure, with the option of retaking the exam when normalcy is restored.

 

Source: Indian Express

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