Topic: General Studies 2:
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education
- Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies
University examination guidelines
Context: The University Grants Commission’s (UGC) guidelines of July 6, 2020 on conducting final-year examinations for university students have created debate on exams
What were the guidelines?
- Final Year Examinations to be conducted by the universities/ institutions by end of September
- Universities/ Institutions may choose any of mode – pen and paper, online or a combination of both as per the feasibility and suitability
- Students who not in their final year can be promoted on the basis of a combination of internal evaluation and marks/grades in previous semesters i.e. cancellation of intermediate semester examinations
What was idea behind conducting exams only for final year students?
- UGC stated that performance in examinations is necessary for “reflection of competence, performance and credibility that is necessary for global acceptability”
- These guidelines state that the decision has been taken keeping in view the future of the students — jobs and higher education
- The new guidelines are also in sync with the decision taken by NTA to further postpone the national level examinations – JEE and NEET in the month of September
- Centre is legally empowered to order the conduct of examinations by September-end, because higher education is in the concurrent list
Criticism of UGC decision
- Logistical Difficulties: There will be challenges in conducting a physical exam during the COVID-19 pandemic especially when States are empowered to impose lockdown based on local conditions
- Learning Process affected: When the coronavirus disrupted the teaching-learning process, the very basis of conducting exams is being questioned
- Not aligned with Global practice: The world’s finest educational institutions have cancelled exams during the pandemic and chosen to conduct internal assessments.
- Objection from States: Given the incalculable risks involved, States such as Punjab, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal and later Delhi decided against holding final year examinations.
- Credibility of Exams: India’s education system continues to be examination-centric and these guidelines fail to take into account the fact that the validity of examinations fundamentally depends on their reliability.
- Institutional Challenges: Most teachers too are not trained in setting good papers particularly for online open-book examinations.
- Discriminatory: Flexibility provided to intermediate year students (not conducting exams) was not extended to final-year students.
- Uncertainty: 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 latter case there would issue of digital divide favouring the elites over poor
- Idea of Final Exams being sacrosanct: It is baffling that the idea that just one semester of examinations will be determinative of the integrity and value of a degree for which students would have worked hard for six to 10 semesters.
Criticism of University Grants Commission (UGC)
- There is nothing like the UGC in the United States.
- The UGC was fundamentally meant to be the 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.
- Today, the higher education sector is overregulated and underfunded
- UGC should eventually take the decision that would be equitable, fair, pragmatic and beneficial and not one that is risky and exclusionary of any set of students.
- Results should be declared taking into account student performance in earlier semesters and internal evaluation of the final semester.
Connecting the dots
- Higher Education Commission