DU’s Lack of Transparency Makes Open Book Exams A Mere Formality  

Despite many lacking ‘books’ to ‘open’ during these exams, the University of Delhi will hold exams from 10 July.

Published02 Jul 2020, 07:01 AM IST
4 min read

In a parallel dimension, where the whole planet is not reeling under a pandemic, the class of 2020 is graduating from their respective courses.

But, we aren’t in that dimension. We are going through a phase where the uncertainty of the pandemic has worsened for approximately four lakh final-year students of the University of Delhi with open book examinations (OBE).

Despite many students lacking ‘books’ to ‘open’ during these examinations, the reputed University will hold exams from 10 July after they were postponed from 1 July.

Our Exams Focussed on the Ends, Not Process

In a column in The Hindu newspaper, Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal wrote, “There are many factors that cause stress in modern life. They include more engagement with technology and less with people; more focus on “success” (the ends) rather than the process of learning (the means).”

The fact of the matter is what we are facing right now is more focussed on the ends than the process. Our examination system is focussed on the result of the examination, without actually paying attention to the process which consists of irregular or no online classes, lack of infrastructure, difficulties faced by specially-abled students, and many other concerns varying from student to student.

The takeaway in each case is stress, an uncertain future, and no answers.

A student who might be directly affected due to the virus outbreak by contracting an infection is subject to the same examination to determine his/her future at a point in life when they already might find it difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The ambiguity of the situation and lack of communication results in anxiety affecting their well-being. This seems to contradict with what the minister wrote, “I feel that positive and continuous communication is the key to end the misery of anxiety, depression, and stress to achieve higher levels of well-being”.

Is the University Prepared?

The University of Delhi might portray that it is ready to conduct the examinations, but the events unfolding state otherwise. There is a rampant lack of uniformity in the protocols and processes of the university. The notification for OBE examinations mentioned that students will be provided with a code to download their admit cards. However, every college has followed different procedures despite the uniform guidelines.

25 June was the date earmarked for the mock test. After checking the website for the mock test repeatedly, the only outcome was disappointment. The students have not been informed about the number of questions they are supposed to answer as part of the assessment, the weightage of each question, and the alternate email addresses to be used should they fail to upload their answer sheets.

How can the students not be expected to panic? And this is when we live in the national capital – the anxiety of students across the country who lack the infrastructure is beyond imagination.

The teachers of the university seem to not be a part of the decision-making process. The community of teachers who are responsible for teaching and have seen the students grow over these three years has been given no say in a decision that puts the future of ‘their’ students at stake.

The Viability of Offline Exams

The university has given the students the option of taking their exams in the offline mode when the situation becomes normal. But this, too, cannot be considered fully in the interest of a student who, at this time, is preparing for their post-graduation entrance examinations or who desires to step out in the industry which is not plausible without a degree.

Krishna Kumar, former director, NCERT in an opinion piece titled ‘A moment to trust the teacher’ in The Hindu newspaper wrote, “A board exam has little to do with education or learning. The values it encourages children to imbibe are all negative. The prominent ones are fear of failing, the sacrifice of joy and selfish competitiveness, and submission to an opaque system.”

All undergraduate students completed this phase of ‘board examinations’ in their lives, only to find out that each exam that our education system offers is the same, enshrined with the same flawed principles.

“Even a minor improvement in the exam system will demand an effort sustained over several years during which a regime may change and the officer-in-charge may get shifted or retire,” Kumar adds.

This display of the lack of hope coming from someone who has been a part of the system leaves very less unsaid.

We, students, are merely smaller players in this vast milieu. Hope is bleak. The lack of autonomy in teaching is what we lack right now. The university is functioning in a way where the teachers are informed about the decisions through the website, just like us.

Communication is one thing that we haven’t seen the university practice. Be it for the OBE examinations or other issues, lack of communication channels makes the whole process obscure. The students have been forced to tackle a situation which was ‘out of their syllabus’.

When they were waiting for the mock tests, they instead got a notice informing them about the postponement of the exams. The issue under solicitation brings to light the plea of the students to the authorities to be more certain and more transparent.

(Preeksha Malhotra and Haseeba Sayyed are final-year students at the University of Delhi. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the authors own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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