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Home / Analysis / Full-fledged college and university exams are unnecessary and avoidable

Full-fledged college and university exams are unnecessary and avoidable

It is not set in stone that degrees may be awarded to students only when they clear a written exam. Some of the finest universities around the world award degrees to their students after conducting rigorous internal assessments

analysis Updated: Jul 07, 2020 13:39 IST
Akshay Marathe
Akshay Marathe
Classes got washed out, study materials have been inaccessible, and e-learning is still nascent. If students have not received a normal education this semester, what are they being tested on?
Classes got washed out, study materials have been inaccessible, and e-learning is still nascent. If students have not received a normal education this semester, what are they being tested on? (Hindustan Times)

On Monday, the University Grants Commission (UGC) issued fresh guidelines for conducting exams in colleges and universities. The Union minister of human resource development (HRD), Ramesh Pokhriyal, tweeted the guidelines that recommend that students in non-terminal semesters should be promoted to the next semester based on internal assessments and their previous performance. But those in final semesters will receive their degrees only after appearing for online or in-person written exams. The Centre’s and UGC’s decision has led to disillusionment and resentment among students. The decision is regressive; it exposes the deep-rooted conservatism and orthodoxy of India’s education administrators and their apathy to the problems young people face.

The recommendations have come amid forceful opposition by student bodies across the country. The disruption caused by Covid-19 has united a cross-section of students who are demanding that the proposed final semester exams be cancelled. Classes have been suspended, study materials have been inaccessible, and e-learning is still nascent. If students have not received a normal education this semester, what are they being tested on?

The government’s justification is that degrees cannot be handed out without conducting “final” assessments of students. But India’s universities do not have final exams. The semester system replaced the annual system and each semester is an equal and independent unit. If the public health crisis justifies promoting second-semester students to the third semester without their being asked to take a traditional written exam, the same must apply to a final semester student. Why are they being held to a different standard?

It is not set in stone that degrees may be awarded to students only when they clear a written exam. This is an archaic and orthodox approach. Some of the finest universities around the world award degrees to their students after conducting rigorous internal assessments -- assignments, term papers, theses, and even open book exams are legitimate tests of calibre.

On the contrary, the assessments used in Indian colleges perpetuate a rote-learning based education that is far from perfect. In the face of the Covid-19 challenge, some universities have innovated: The Ambedkar University conducted its evaluation through internal assessments. The National Law University, Delhi, has combined internal assessments and online open-book exams, but with 48 hours being allowed for submissions, unlike the three hours that Delhi University is giving its students.

The Centre is being unnfair towards students by excluding their opinion. Students have made their voices heard on social media; some have even gone to court to challenge the government’s decision.

Students are key stakeholders of this system and must be treated as such. After Delhi University’s online mock tests this week were marred by several glitches, the administration denied any problems with their online testing infrastructure and blamed the poor Internet connectivity of the students. Even if that were the case, clearly the system is not ready.

We are in the middle of a pandemic that has thrown the world off course. The economy is comatose and a disproportionate number of fresh graduates are going to remain unemployed for the foreseeable future. This is already causing tremendous anxiety. The added stress and toll of full-fledged exams are unnecessary and avoidable. Puritanical standards of what it takes to be a graduate in India must be substituted by a more humane and rational approach in the current circumstances.

Akshay Marathe is spokesperson, Aam Aadmi Party, and a final-year law student at Delhi University

Thew views expressed are personal

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