Amid panic and fear over the rising number of coronavirus cases in Tamil Nadu, many students have raised concerns over a circular released by Anna University.
The circular states that students would need to return to college to take their semester examinations. It further states that details will be intimated as to when the exams will be conducted in June-July.
The circular has sent the students in a tizzy, with many questioning the university’s decision. Amid the backlash, Anna University Vice Chancellor Surappa told The Quint that the students should stay calm, and that the order is not final.
‘It Is Such a Stressful Time’
Anna University is a public state university in Chennai. This circular has been issued for students in its main campus, College of Engineering, Guindy, University of Madras and Alagappa College of Technology.
Several students from Anna University and affiliated colleges like SSN College slammed the university, asking if they were using students from these campuses as ‘lab rats’ before the same process is applied for the others as well.
It was in the third week of March that students staying in hostels left campuses after the university declared holiday for two weeks, which eventually was extended, considering the consecutive lockdowns.
“The portions have also not been covered fully. Nothing has been happening since then. It has been so long that we don’t even remember some lessons. It’s very stressful. In my area, there are so many cases. People are not even talking to each other. I can’t believe why the university is so desperate to conduct examination.”Student, Anna University
“Our university is a melting pot and if students travel from all over the country and world for these exams, it is going to be dangerous to host them in a crowded classroom. I am not asking for them to cancel exams because many need this to boost their CGPA. Instead postpone the exams to a time when things are safer,” Aparna a student of SSN college suggested.
“We never know who is a carrier,” was the concern cited by students and their parents.
Students have even started a petition on Change.org demanding pen-and paper exams to be cancelled considering the health of the students. They urged the university to provide proper information regarding college affairs, keeping in mind the students in rural areas.
Online Classes Will Put Rural Students at a Disadvantage, Students Say
Several students especially from rural areas said that having no access to online devices puts them in a disadvantage. “We are having bandwidth issues to attend classes on zoom and so we don’t know how we will be able to afford the internet connectivity if they conduct online exams,” said another student of the university.
“I have two brothers in my house and online classes have started for school students. If I am using the laptop and one of my brothers is using the phone, then the third person will have no access. My mother is a teacher who has to conduct online classes for her students. So in settled families itself we have to go for more resources and internet providers. How will we all manage?,” asked Ansar Ahmed of SSN College.
“Anna University is planning to conduct exams online. But the problem is they won’t do in a proper way. For all these years when they’ve released the results, we could access it only after 24 hours because all the websites, apps will hang.”Ansar Ahmed, Student, SSN College
Several students have raised these concerns on the Anna University official students app but there has been no response so far.
Students from affiliated colleges have been asked to pay their exam fees as well but have received no information so far about how the exams or online classes will be conducted.
Don’t Even Have Books to Study, Complain Students
Several students lamented that they had not even taken all their books home so they won’t be able to prepare for the exams. The university has added over 3,000 study materials that includes notes, semester question papers, question bank and other necessary reading materials to their online study platform STUCOR.
However, students said it is very difficult to read thousands of pages on a mobile screen and many others who have no access to a laptop or a mobile phone, are at a huge disadvantage.
A few students suggested that the college do away with these semester examinations and instead ask students to do extra projects for their grades.
‘Conducting Exams for Final Year-Students My Top Priority’: Anna Univ VC
Professor Surappa clarified to The Quint that the immediate order of his agenda is to conduct exams for the final year undergraduate and postgraduate students, which accounts to over one lakh students in order to complete their graduation.
“We have to evaluate the students, that's primary and only the deserving students should be given their degree. I know that COVID is causing havoc. But the immediate concern is that these students need their degree certificate to go out to the world for jobs. That's my top priority,” he said.
However, he added that a regular pen-and-paper offline exam will not be completely practical.
“We don’t have that kind of infrastructure so as to maintain social distancing. We are aware that some students have missed out on a few classes as well. We are working out a method here. We are not sure how COVID is evolving and we are waiting for some respite so that people can roam around. But that doesn’t stop me from planning ahead.”Surappa, Vice Chancellor, Anna University
Probability of Conducting Online Exams Still Being Evaluated
Professor Surappa also said that the university is discussing with experts and educational institution heads to see if online classes will be a viable option. However, he said such a decision will be taken ‘without depriving any student.’
He also clarified that they are yet to finalise a platform for conducting online classes and a question bank.
“This is the first time for the university and the students. Even for online classes, we can’t give a 3-hour examination because of the bandwidth of students in different locations. Everyone won’t have good internet to give these exams. We will maybe consider one hour examinations,” he said.
Revised Exam Pattern
As per the new pattern, the question paper will have 10 three-mark questions in Part- A section and Part - B will have five questions each carrying 19 marks.
Students will have a choice of answering any 8 questions from Part-A and 4 questions from Part- B totalling 100 marks.
Students are expected to answer 80 percent of the question paper pertaining to any four units of the syllabus covered and attempt questions for 100 marks, as per the university circular from the controller of examinations to the principals of engineering colleges. However, all the current students reappearing for the arrear examinations, there will no change in the existing question paper pattern.
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