Teachers and student bodies have criticised the Delhi University’s decision to hold final year post-graduate and under-graduate exams in ‘open-book’ mode online if the COVID-19 situation doesn’t normalise soon, terming it “discriminatory” which would put a large section of pupils in anxiety.
The ‘open-book’ examination mode would allow students to refer to books, notes and other study materials to answer the questions. Students will download question papers for their respective course from the web portal sitting at home and upload the answers within two hours.
The Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) termed the system of holding online exams “discriminatory” and “unfair”. It also shot off a letter to the university vice-chancellor expressing their disagreement with the move.
“It is not viable for a large University like DU, with its diverse student population, and it is shocking that the institute has adopted it as the only form. We demand that the pen-paper option be given to all students,” DUTA said.
It suggested that the university should consider the possibility of giving provisional degrees to students based on their Cumulative Grade Points Average (CGPA) of five semesters.
“The concept of an ‘open-book’ examination is very different from the kind of tests our students are used to. Springing this ugly surprise on them in such uncertain and anxious times will increase the anxiety of large sections of students, especially since the normal teaching-learning process has been disrupted due to the pandemic,” the teachers’ body said.
The Delhi University’s Executive Council member Rajesh Jha, along with some other members of the council, have also written to the VC over the issue.
“This unilateral move to organise remote open book exams to be attempted at home by the students of Delhi University will push higher education towards privatization by devaluing its degrees and diluting their rigour.
“The pedagogy of DU and its examination system are neither structured nor cultivated for open book examinations and those too to be taken at one’s home,” they said while also raising internet connectivity and cybersecurity issues.
The Indian National Teachers’ Congress (INTEC) also mooted the idea of calculating CGPA on the basis of internal exam marks and scores in the previous semester.
“Open book exams are meant not only to test the conceptual understanding of the students but also their ability to apply these concepts in real-life situations. Open book online exams need a totally different patterned question paper.
“Students and teachers are never trained for this process of conducting exams in our university,” said INTEC convener Pankaj Garg.
According to INTEC, 45 per cent of the university’s students are from outside Delhi and a major chunk of them from the rural hinterland.
“These outstation students had gone to their homes during semester break without taking along their books and notes. Also, students from northeastern India and Jammu and Kashmir do not have access to the Internet,” Garg claimed.
There is no provision of open-book online exams in the ordinances. An academic Council meeting should be convened over the issue, he said.
Among the student bodies, the Left-backed All India Students’ Association (AISA) said online exams are not a feasible form of assessment for the wide diaspora of pupils in DU.
AISA had recently conducted a survey which showed 74 per cent students were against holding of exams online. “In a time of health crisis, the DU administration must take into account the students coming from the marginal sections of the society. Students have cited various reasons such as connectivity, resources, lack of material and online classes for rejecting online exams. The voice of students must be listened to,” it said.
The AISA will be holding a social media campaign #DuAgainstOnlineExams on May 15.
The Congress-affiliated National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) said the first and second-year students should be promoted on the basis of their performance in the previous semester while the final year students should be evaluated on their past scores and be given 10 per cent extra marks since students tend to score more in their final year.
The NSUI has also initiated an online petition raising its demands. The petition has been signed by more than 60,000 students, it said.
Former Executive Council member A K Bhagi said the open book exam doesn’t seem like a viable option in DU.
“When we say it is an online open-book test then it is beneficial to those who have access to experts and or tutors. One can pay money to get test solved through prior engagement of experts. It doesn’t seem to me as a workable, viable option in DU and it has less credibility,” he added.