UGC meeting agenda: Exams with social distancing

Published on Apr 26, 2020 11:36 PM IST
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ByAmandeep Shukla

New Delhi The University Grants Commission (UGC) will on Monday hold a video conference to discuss disruptions triggered by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the academic calendar and the way forward, according to an official aware of the matter. High on the agenda could be holding exams in times of social distancing.

The commission regulating higher education in India is expected to focus on two reports --- one by a panel on academic schedule headed by RC Kuhad, the vice chancellor of the Central University of Haryana; and the other by a committee on online education headed by Indira Gandhi National Open Univrsity (IGNOU) vice chancellor Nageshwar Rao.

“…there are a variety of universities in different regions. Some of them are in hot spots (of Covid-19) and others are not. The universities which can begin their session early should be allowed (to do so). Others can be given a last date (to begin the new session). However, all this will be discussed. Our aim is to merge technology with equity,” a commission member who did not want to be named said.

The Kuhad committee has recommended postponing the admission cycle till up to September, according to the commission member.

But fresh admissions, ideally, can only take place if universities are able to close the 2019-2020 academic session for undergraduate or postgraduate by holding exams and declaring results.

Generally, academic sessions end in colleges and universities in May-June and new sessions begin in July-August. Education institutes have been shut down across India since March 25, when a nationwide lockdown was imposed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

“There are universities like JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi) or EFLU (English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad), which have fewer students. And there are others like the BHU (Banaras Hindu University) or AMU (Aligarh Muslim University), where the number of students… is more. We have to allow them different options depending on their location, size and circumstances,” said the commission member cited above.

The panels created by UGC earlier this month has suggested options such as assignment-based evaluation, objective type questions in an internet-based evaluation model and even the traditional pen-and-paper exam in front of webcams to wrap up the academic session, said the commission member.

“There are areas where even the mobile phone signal is weak, leave aside fast internet facility. The success of the solution hinges on ensuring that students’ concerns are addressed,” this official said, adding that exams for Sanskrit or any regional language could be challenging in an internet-based software.

Some students’ organisations have expressed concerns that those in remote areas or those who are underprivileged may have to face difficulty if their challenges are not factored in while brainstorming a solution.

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