Should UGC reconsider its hasty call on final years ?

Updated: Mar 6, 2021

The COVID-19 Pandemic has brought many uncertainties and unfortunately one among them is the final year exams. The latest guidelines issued by The University Grants Commissions (UGC) states to conduct the final semester exams by September either in offline or online or through a blended mode. This has put a big question mark in the careers of the 2020 batch students.

Before these guidelines even arrived many states had canceled the exams and the guidelines came as a shocker to many. So the question arises why UGC is so keen on conducting the end semester exams by September. The reason for this decision is stated as “reflection of competence, performance and credibility that is necessary for global acceptability”. This makes me wonder whether the single end semester decides the capability of the student.

This brings us to the education system we follow, our system is designed in a way that all the semester carries equal weightage. They are independent of one another and are designed to be whole when combined all together. All the semesters are equally important to obtain the final degree. The latest guidelines by UGC seems to misinterpret it. It seems to be taken from the perspective as though the end semester evaluates all we have learned so far in the course. This view is evident by their decision to cancel all the intermediate exams alone. It’s hard to believe that UGC believes the last semester’s result rather than a student's effort for the past six semesters.

Let’s say they are fixed with their decision of conducting the exam. With the rising cases of pandemic every day conducting exams offline is a risky affair. Many of the students hail from different states and different districts within a particular state. No university or commission can assure complete safety of students while traveling and attending exams. 32 SSLC students being tested positive in Karnataka after their board exams and 5 students being tested positive during the KEAM exam in Kerala despite being cautious explains the situation.

The decision taken by UGC seems to contradict Article 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950 states that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” In the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha. vs Union of India the court has interpreted as follows,

It is the fundamental right of everyone in this country… to live with human dignity free from exploitation. This right to live with human dignity enshrined in Article 21 derives its life breath from the Directive Principles of State Policy and particularly clauses (e) and (f) of Article 39 and Articles 41 and 42 and at the least, therefore, it must include protection of the health and strength of workers, men and women, and of the tender age of children against abuse, opportunities and facilities for children to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity, educational facilities, just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief. These are the minimum requirements which must exist in order to enable a person to live with human dignity and no State neither the Central Government nor any State Government-has the right to take any action which will deprive a person of the enjoyment of these basic essentials.

If conducting offline exams have their own set of problems then online exams pave way for social discrimination. With only 11% of the total population having computers this discriminates against the students not having computers, enough study materials, who lack uninterrupted access to the internet, electricity, etc. This will deprive the fair playing field and equality for all students in the education sector.

Despite all this even if the exams are conducted by September as per the UGC guidelines it will take at least a month or two to announce the results. In the best-case scenario, students will receive their completion certificate by November. By this time students might have lost one precious year in their career. Many students who were successfully placed in the campus are uncertain of the future added to pressure whether their offer would be rescinded due to the pandemic. Also, many students who aspire to continue their higher studies and those applying for government jobs are under pressure to submit their course completion certificate on time.

A time period of a few months might seem simple to many but is crucial for the graduating students. It is the pivotal time a student steps into the professional field. For the majority of the students, it is the time they start to support themselves and their family and step in the real world.

The examinations are not the only factor that determines the capability of the student. Most of the exams are merely tests for recalling ability of information rather than testing for understanding the concepts or their application. Besides, one semester is not going to sum up all the efforts and work that students have put so far. The important thing we need to consider is the time. Even some of the finest institutions in our country including IIT Bombay, IIT Kanpur, IIT Kharagpur, etc have canceled their final exams and graded the students based on internal assessments.

This pandemic is a once in a lifetime situation we are all facing. Such tough times force some hard decisions to be made for the welfare of many. The Student community is currently under a lot of pressure and mental anxiety about their future. These are the times the government has to stand with us to guide us for a better future. So let’s hope we’ll soon see a favorable decision that will benefit the student society a whole.

Article by

-Kathir Gowtham R S

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