#DUAgainstOnlineExams: Teachers and students protest DU's open-book exam plan, places demand to VC

The DUTA said that the fact that the university is giving out "piecemeal" instructions instead of a complete proposal with suitable modifications to the Academic Calendar has added to uncertainties
Image for representational purpose (Pic: PTI)
Image for representational purpose (Pic: PTI)

Delhi University's decision to conduct online open-book examinations and internal assessments were met with severe flak from the teachers and students alike. The DU Teachers' Association (DUTA) said that all statutory processes have been "thrown to the winds" and statutory bodies "trampled upon".  They suggested that the varsity should keep a pen and paper option for those who do not have access to good internet and thus extend the time of the semester. The students, on the other hand, are concerned that the university has conducted enough lectures to conduct an end semester examination. The students took twitter by storm after the Students' Federation of India (SFI) called for a Twitter protest with #DUAgainstOnlineExams. The hashtag soon became one of the top trends for the day on the microblogging site.

The DUTA said that the fact that the university is giving out "piecemeal" instructions instead of a complete comprehensive proposal with suitable modifications to the Academic Calendar has added to the uncertainties faced by teachers and students. "We demand that the university first expands the committee to include elected representatives and then places the entire proposal before the statutory bodies before issuing such instructions that create confusion and spread panic rather than providing clarity," said DUTA President Dr Rajib Ray. The DUTA wrote to the Vice-Chancellor Dr Yogesh Tyagi and urged him to stake appropriate steps. "Most teachers and students strongly believe that online examinations are totally discriminatory to all those who do not have access to fast internet or computers. A large number of surveys have shown that access to connectivity, laptops and gadgets to facilitate printing and scanning is extremely poor in India. Students are worried that technical glitches in assessing question papers on time and in depositing scripts etc. may prevent them from focusing on the exam. The ability of the DU website to handle such a heavy load is also a point of concern as many students have reported difficulties even in submitting the examination form," he added.

The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) also said that the varsity administration should have involved all stakeholders in the decision-making process. "ABVP is of the strong belief that no decision on examinations in DU should be taken without wider consultation with stakeholders. We have done a massive survey and will suggest alternate mode of exams to the university very soon, said Sidharth Yadav State Secretary, ABVP Delhi.

The SFI said that many students do not have books with them as they had gone back home for vacations when the lockdown started. "A pre-requisite for an open-book exam are the books, notes and other study materials which many students do not have with them. Some very early survey results indicate that over 70 per cent of students in St Stephens, Shri Ram College of Commerce, Lady Shri Ram, Hindu, Miranda House, Ramjas or Hansraj are outstation students. Most of these students had returned home during their mid-semester break and some had left Delhi for their home state after the COVID-19 crisis caused an extension of the holidays. Most of them did not carry their study materials and some had left their laptops and other gadgets too at their respective residences," said Sumit Kataria, President, SFI Delhi. "Online study resources are not a fair replacement for one’s own study materials and books because the digital divide is still a reality in India and accessing these materials is a luxury for many. The decision also completely dismisses the DUTA’s official position on online lectures not being a substitution for classroom lessons rather it is only a substandard compensatory mechanism," he added.

The guidelines issued for the setting of question papers and conducting Internal Assessment reflect a bureaucratic approach said Dr Dutta, "In view of the fact that teaching through e-resources has been uneven and has failed to reach large sections of students, and the fact that many students were taken by surprise by the lockdown and found themselves without notes, materials and even their books, the sensible approach would be to provide ample choice in the exam (more than what departments would think of in normal times) so that students are not subjected to unnecessary stress."

The SFI, in a letter to the VC, also mentioned that along with pen and paper and online exams, the students should be given the option to avail an option of receiving a grade for this semester by carrying over the CPGA accumulated in the previous semesters. "This is particularly crucial for terminal students who would need provisional degrees. The formula for them can be the CPGA of the previous 5 semesters in case of UG, and previous 3 semesters in case of PG," said the statement. "The same formula can be offered to non-terminal year students as well. However, the option of taking a pen and paper exam in the future, i.e., in the upcoming even semester must be available to students who avail this option," it added. 

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