At any given point of time, the fate of lakh of students is sealed in the examination building of the University of Mumbai — a four-storeyed building in a corner of the Kalina campus.
The examination department of the 150-year-old varsity has its hands full. “Organising the examination and arranging for the assessment of papers, rechecking the marks and finally preparing the marksheet are our primary functions,” said Prakash J Wani, controller of examinations.
The examination process is a complex one. A committee is formed with the pro-vice chancellor as chairman as controller of examination and experts on specific subjects. The team selects the three panels of paper-setters for each subject.
“It is a myth that the controller has a say in the setting the questions papers or the alloting marks,” said Wani. “Everything is so systematised that I do not come in the picture.” He narrated how he got calls from influential people at times asking him to increase marks and so on. “The professors are the final judge.”
To prevent paper leaks from the printing press, Wani says, “We send the press a mixed bag of question papers so that it becomes difficult to tell the subject of the paper,” said Wani. “Even I’m not supposed to see the paper,” said Pro Vice Chancellor AD Sawant. “I choose a bundle, indiscriminately.”
The Varsity however, banks on that fact that majority of the workers in the press are “illiterate”. The Varsity's press is located in the Kalina campus itself.
Post-examination, the department calls the 3,000 examiners, for evaluation to report at the Central Assessment Process (CAP) Centre at the Kalina campus.
Talking about evaluation, teachers have always complained that they are not paid enough for the extra work. On the other hand, the Varsity has always maintained that it is a part of their job for which they are being paid by their college. “This is not extra work. It is their duty,” said Sawant, pointing that states like Tamil Nadu do not pay the teachers extra for evaluating papers.
Another controversy surrounding the department is the number of temporary staffers operating in this sensitive department. Sawant says, “We have to make do with temporary staffers since the government banned fresh recruitments.”
A new CAP centre is being constructed at the Kalina campus, where teachers will be able to correct papers. “Earlier, teachers had to sit in different sections because of the lack of space, but, now they will have the CAP centre.”
“The revaluation process continues for six months and so the papers are stored in a storeroom,” said Wani. After the duration for revaluation is over, the bundles of paper are sent to the paper mills. The answer papers, that make or break students’ lives, are later transformed into paper bags, which make way to the market.