Frontlist Education | UGC questioned by Delhi High Court to clarify the mode of final-year exams

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) to clarify the mode of final year examinations to be conducted by various universities — multiple-choice questions (MCQ), open choices, assignments or presentations.

Educational institutions were shut across the country in the last week of March to curb the coronavirus spread in the country. Various examinations conducted by universities and higher education institutions have been suspended since then. Early this month, the UGC had announced that end-of-term semester exams will be held in September.

Several students have challenged the Delhi University’s decision to conduct online open-book exams and the UGC’s decision asking varsities to conduct exams for final-year students throughout the country.

Justice Prathiba M Singh, while hearing a bunch of pleas by students, also asked the UGC to clarify on the differences about the mode of examination since the April guidelines by the higher education body mentioned other forms of assessment. However, the fresh guidelines issued by the UGC on July 6 mentioned only online, offline and blend of both.

During the hearing, the judge sought to know from DU as to whether a window of 24-48 hours could be granted to the students to submit their answer scripts. Citing examples of the foreign universities, Justice Singh said in most of the foreign universities, the students have been given at least 24-48 hours to submit their transcripts.

DU’s counsel, senior advocate Sachin Datta, told the court that it cannot be allowed to prevent cheating.

To this, the judge said, “Why are the exams timed? Why can’t the answer scripts be taken after a day or two? Yesterday, when it rained in the city, we did not have electricity for three hours and this is in the heart of the city. How do you expect to students to have the connectivity to upload the answer scripts in a time-bound manner.

The court also asked the UGC as to why it is insisting on conducting the exams as the children are suffering and all they want is to give the exams and finish this up.

The counsel for DU said that they were conducting the exams strictly in accordance with the instructions given by the UGC.

Appearing for the UGC, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said there was no divergence internally between the Union HRD ministry and UGC. The UGC submitted that the guidelines do not permit internal assessment for evaluating final year students as it puts credibility of the system at stake.

When the UGC counsel said DU can undertake a mixed form of examination, the judge said, “Look at the condition. ICMR says that Covid-19 is going to be at its peak in November. How do you expect them to conduct the offline exam by September?”

One of the counsel for the petitioner pointed out that many universities have opted for a creative mode of examination, including MCQs and assignment-based exams and the long-form mode is time consuming and the open-book method is “prima facie troublesome”.

He submitted that the marksheet of even last semester of Physics department has not been released by the DU yet and it will take a long time to complete the final year exams.

The court said it has failed to understand why UGC was insisting on conducting the final exams and said, “Imagine the number of writ petitions that are going to come here due to the number of reasons after open-book exams in August. DU will be struggling with it for years. I think the administration has collapsed and students are suffering. OBE is not going to work.”

When the court asked why did the HRD ministry directed DU to postpone the exams, advocate Sunita Ojha replied that there was a meeting and only an advisory was given to postpone if they were not ready and DU has to examine its own preparedness.

The Delhi University is scheduled to hold final year undergraduate online open-book exams from August 10-31 after the high court had compressed the schedule of the examination suggested by the university.

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