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COVID-19: Conducting exams in varsities in MCQs format not feasible alternative, say academicians

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New Delhi:  Conducting exams in universities in Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) format in view of COVID-19 pandemic is not a feasible alternative as it cannot test students’ analytical skills and students pursuing subjects like literature will be at a disadvantage, academicians have pointed out.

The concerns by academicians come against the backdrop of the Delhi High Court asking the University Grants Commission (UGC) to clarify if final year examinations of the universities be conducted based on MCQs, open choices, assignments and presentations, instead of long form exams.

The UGC officials, however, maintained that over 6,000 universities in the country have already conducted exams for final year students or are planning to conduct them.

Earlier this month, the UGC in its revised guidelines directed the higher education institutions that final year examinations be conducted in September 2020, instead of July 2020, as per its guidelines announced in April.

Punjab, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Delhi have announced reservations against the plan, citing the COVID-19 situation.

Rajesh Jha, a political science professor and executive council member of DU, said, “Our students are not prepared for a new format of exams. They have been taught to analyse things and will be caught unprepared for any new format. All of a sudden you cannot impose a system. You need to test it before implementing it. Coronavirus time cannot be used for experimentation.”

Pankaj Garg, a professor at Rajdhani College, said, “The format of exams decide how students are taught. For MCQs and even for open book exams, the students have to be taught in a certain way but in Delhi University, students have not been taught in a way that they can take exams in such a format”.

“Plus problems are multiplying– coronavirus cases are on the rise and students in Assam and Bihar are also facing issues due to floods. Internet connectivity is already an issue and the flood situation has complicated the connectivity situation, so even if the MCQ format exams happen they will happen in an online format which will not be feasible for students,” he said.

Saikat Ghosh, an English professor at the Shri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College and Academic Council member, said, “The way the subjects and the syllabus have been designed, we teach those subjects even at the undergraduate level in a fair amount of detail and we encourage students to show analytical skills. Analytical skills cannot be tested through the MCQ format, which favours information”

“It is not feasible for the way in which students have been taught or even the content of the syllabus. In literature, the MCQ format, it’s not going to work. The alternative to open book exam is not MCQ,” Ghosh said.

The Delhi University Teachers Association  (DUTA) has called a meeting on Thursday to discuss the issue.

“There is a DUTA meeting scheduled later in the day on the issue. Even if MCQs will happen, they will happen online and we are against the conduct of online examinations,” said a DUTA member requesting anonymity.

According to a senior UGC official, “The guidelines have not stated that the exams have to be conducted right away, the exams have to be concluded by September end. States can devise a calendar whenever it is feasible to conduct exams in this timeline. Also, the exams can be conducted either online, offline or in blended mode. Totally doing away with exams is not a feasible situation.”

Universities and schools across the country have been closed since March 16, when the Centre announced a nationwide classroom shutdown as one of the measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lockdown was announced on March 24 and it came into effect the next day. While the government has eased several restrictions, schools and colleges continue to remain closed.


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