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Apply 50-50 Formula For Final Year Students As Well- Demand DU Teachers

A group of more than 100 teachers from the Department of Physics and Astrophysics of the University of Delhi wrote a letter to Mr. Vinay Gupta, the Dean (Examinations) of the University expressing their reservations regarding the University’s decision to conduct online open-book examinations (OBE) for final-year students, and urged him to review and scrap the same.

The University of Delhi has decided to conduct online the OBE from 1st July. Under the open-book format, students are would be required to first download the exam papers from the university’s official site online, solve the questions by writing the answers on a plain sheet, click pictures of the answer sheets and then upload it within 3 hours on a server. This decision has turned out to be very controversial and has received united opposition from both teachers and students of the university who’ve raised their concerns over issues like lack of internet accessibility, lack of preparedness, mental health, poor infrastructure, etc.

Consequently, the letter is one among the numerous different letters sent to the university officials in connection to the decision of the university to conduct examinations for final year students using the open-book mode. 

In the letter, the teachers have expressed their strong opposition against the online open- book examinations and have raised various concerns regarding the conduct of such examinations exclaiming why the idea should be scrapped. “As teachers, we have always held centralized examinations to be extremely important. However, in these circumstances, where teaching- learning has been so uneven and where institutions have failed to provide for all students equally, any examinations would be unfair and discriminatory. In pushing OBE, the University is abdicating its constitutional duty to provide equal academic and evaluation related opportunities to all students irrespective of their background,” said the group of teachers.

 The teachers expressed four major concerns in their letter-

1) Lack of institutional help in carrying forward online teaching-learning

The teachers expressed their discontent at the absence of any efforts by the university to deal with the unforeseen circumstances of the sudden lockdown announced by the government in March. “It is important to ask if any efforts were made at the Department level to procure even students’ email ids and contact numbers. Merely sharing links with students does not count as teaching. The University left it to individuals to find their own ways and means to cope with an unprecedented situation,” said the teachers in the letter.

2) Uneven Teaching

The teachers have pointed out the lack of resources, connectivity issues and environment at home have adversely affected students’ learning environment. They also added that absence of proper infrastructural resources formed a “key constraint” in the efforts made for teaching “Despite their best efforts, teachers could not reach all students uniformly,” expressed the teachers. Apart from teaching, the teachers also pointed out that lack of proper infrastructure would cause further problems in conduct of examinations and the proposed solution to this issue which consists of using Common Service Centers wouldn’t be viable. “What to talk about rural areas, the situation in these Centers even in urban areas, with regard to electricity, connectivity and printing resources is pathetic,” said the group.

Even when teachers were able to hold online classes, roughly one-third to one-fourth students participates,” explain the group of teachers in the letter. The teachers supported their statements by quoting the outcome of a survey the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) had recently  conducted in which 51,000 students had participated, in which 85% students had voted against the open book examinations due to reasons like lack of access to study material, mental health issues, etc.

3) Laboratory/ Practical component

The teachers articulated that while they have been able to work with the theory papers through e-resources, lab work remains “totally compromised”.

4) Lack of Consultation

Concerns were raised by the teachers about the absence of a consultative process held by the university to formulate its decision regarding the conduct of examinations. Further the teachers have also expressed their dissatisfaction regarding the non-inclusion of teachers’ and students’ representatives in the Working Group constituted by the university. 

The teachers also said “Experiences with online processes conducted by the University is far from being perfect. When colleges find it difficult to deal with them, one can only imagine what such a system will do to lakhs of students who will be forced to prepare themselves to deal with last minute glitches.”

Further, the teachers also pointed out the enhanced possibilities of malpractices and usage of unfair means in the examinations. “An important consideration in assessment of any kind is ensuring that it is conducted in a fair manner, without any unfair means. OBEs are potentially open to malpractices by groups of students as well as private agencies,” exclaimed the teachers.

They also said pedagogy to prepare students for an OBE is completely different, “If changes in the examination pattern are forced at this late stage, there will be a huge mismatch between the teaching and testing”.

Apart from just expressing their opposition to the open book exam format, the group of teachers also proposed alternative ways of grading students. They have propounded that instead of exams, an average of previous semesters for the internal assessment and lab assessment can be used to grant grades for the semester. “Students should be granted grades on the basis of their grades in past semesters with an opportunity that these can be improved through pen-paper examination at the earliest possible opportunity,” they suggested. They also advised that the span for all existing batches of students should be increased by at least two years.

Featured Image: DU Beat Archives

Abhinandan Kaul

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