Sections of students and faculty of the Delhi University (DU) in India have opposed the university administration’s decision to conduct online Open Book Examinations (OBE) for the final term, scheduled to commence from July 10. While hearing a petition filed by DU students demanding withdrawal of the notification to conduct the exams online, the Delhi high court on July 7, Tuesday, asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to clarify their stand on conducting end-term exams in all universities across India in the current situation.
Students allege that the UGC, which oversees various universities in India, had initially proposed to cancel final term exams for students. However, on Monday, the UGC recommended that final term examinations for students are “to be completed by the end of September 2020” in either offline or online mode. The decision was also backed by the MHRD which has mandated that “final term examinations should be compulsorily conducted as per UGC Guidelines.”
Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) president Rajib Ray told Newsclick that the “UGC has, through its guidelines, postponed the final year examinations till September end; and it does not say that it will happen only in September. So the examinations are supposed to end by that period.”
Raising concerns about internet access and availability of laptops at homes for students who hail from far-flung and rural areas, the court on Tuesday said that “economically, socially and physically disadvantaged students are going to face problems disproportionately.” The decision has further invoked the debate on accessibility and equity concerns related to online exams.
“We had been waiting in hope that the UGC would take the side of the students but we should have known they would only listen to their ministers. I have been in so much stress waiting for the result and this is what they do,” a DU student said.
Amidst the growing confusion around the decision to conduct online exams, students have started #cancelthefinalyearexams protest campaign on social media.They have appealed to the UGC and the central government led by prime minister Narendra Modi to intervene before a final call is made, in order to ease the mounting pressure on millions of the students across the country.
“In Jammu and Kashmir, only low speed internet has been working since last August. It took me several hours to upload my answer sheets during my mock tests, now imagine how much time it will take me to upload my answer sheets for the main tests. On the one side we are facing the pandemic crisis, the university administration is further adding to the suffering of students,” said a student from the history department, who moved back to his hometown from Delhi due to the pandemic. A majority of students who come to Delhi for education have gone back to their native places due to lack of housing and financial support by the government and university authorities.
According to DU Dean of Examinations, Professor Vinay Gupta, out of a total 245,000 lakh students enrolled in the final year of the university, 186,000 lakh belong to Delhi while 59,000 are from outside the national capital. Gupta told the court on Tuesday that “158,000 lakh students have till now registered for OBE.”