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The OBE Game: Final-Year Students Express Woes on Instagram

In its latest notification, Delhi University (DU) has stated that it is going to conduct the OBE from 10th – 31st August as opposed to 17th August, as scheduled earlier after the Delhi High Court slammed the decision. Yet a group of final-year students have expressed their grievances against it through a curated Instagram Page. How fair is this exam obsession game?

It seems there is no respite for the terminal year students of Delhi University. While , the first and second year students have been lucky enough to escape the exam stress amidst such difficult times, things are opposite for the final-years. In the latest notification released by Delhi University, it is mentioned that the Open Book Examinations will be held from 10th August 2020 to 31st August 2020 and the decision has been taken by the administration after umpteen number of delays, postponements and shifting of dates, putting everyone in skepticism.

Recently, DU Beat came across an Instagram page by the name of @scrapobe. While talking to one of the students from the concerned page, we realized the ugly face of OBE.

“We are some final year and second year students from DU pushing for cancellation because OBE is inaccessible, exclusive, unnecessary and cruel. The responses we have received from final year students have been entirely against OBE— students are not in a place in their lives that is conducive to writing exams. The threat of the virus, illness and deaths in the family, mental health issues exacerbated due to the lockdown, the already existing digital divide amongst various other issues make such a time already so difficult that giving exams is an exercise in torture.”

says one of the admin of the page
A post by @scrapobe

It is surprising to see how DU has been so obsessed with taking exams that it has failed to accommodate the repeated demands of students and teachers. We talked to Ms. Abha Dev Habib, the treasurer of Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) regarding the same and also enlightened her about the Instagram page that had numerous complaints by students. She expressed her opinions regarding OBE,

“Given uneven teaching and the fact that students are caught in different adverse situations, any exam will be discriminatory. Earning degrees have been made much more difficult for the terminal semester students.All semesters have equal weightage towards a degree and this misplaced importance to the last semester examination is beyond comprehension. Teachers and students were arguing for an alternative keeping in mind the fact that OBE is discriminatory and open to manipulation. Integrity, uniformity and fairness are three essential aspects of any assessment process. “

says Abha Dev Habib, Treasurer, DUTA
Abha Dev Habib as reported on the page @scrapobe

Earlier the OBE were supposed to be held online from July 1 and the mock tests regarding the same were held too. But, a number of students reported sabotage and anomalies during the mocks. After the new revised guidelines that University Grants Commission (UGC) proposed on 6th July, the university was asked to hold the exams around September in offline/online/blended mode. Yet a student by the name of Kabir Sachdeva challenged theJuly 6th July guidelines and the exams got shifted from 1st July to 10th July. The university then also stated that any student who would miss the exams from 10th July would be given a fair chance to appear for a physical exam that it would conduct in September. But then the university was asked by the Minister of Human Resource Development Mr. Ramesh ‘Nishank’ Pokhriyal to shift the exams till August. So the University came up with a fresh set of dates of 17th August to mid-September. But guess what? The Delhi HC slammed the university for such delay. A bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Subramonium Prasad remarked,

“Why do you find the middle of August very sacrosanct?…You were so confident, that you were to conduct exams from July 1… Later you pushed to July 10. Now you are completely unprepared till mid of August,” The bench asked DU to compress the schedule, “keeping in mind that on passing out, many final year-students will have to apply for post-graduate courses in various universities within the country and abroad and their career prospects would be adversely affected if the process is stretched to such an extent”.

as reported by The Indian Express

A timeline of the OBE episode:

1st July
This is the first date from which exams were supposed to be held and mocks were taken.

6th July
UGC releases new guidelines and shifts exams till September. This is challenged and new date decided is 10th July.

8th July
HRD minister asks university to shift exams till August. The University releases fresh dates of 17th August till 8th September.

14th July
After Delhi High court slams DU, it releases latest dates of Aug 10-31.

So, finally the latest schedule of the exams as decided by the university is from August 10 to 31st August. The date was changed owing to the court reprimanding the university for the mock test glitches and in accordance with the UGC guidelines. However, the university fails to understand the repercussions or implications of such a rigid decision. A lot of students have family commitments , mental pressure and inaccessibility of devices to take exams. While still others who are outstation students have left their study material behind in Delhi as is reported in the Instagram post of @scrapobe.

“We have noticed in the recent discussions about OBE and its infeasibility, the focus has been on whether the website will work and/or whether the timeline is feasible. However for students, while these are big issues too, there are larger problems of exclusivity, inaccessibility, mental health issues, covid-positive family members, physical illness, financial issues, personal struggles and problems. We want to share these problems of final-year DU students; including problems of network we also want to highlight problems of distance, lack of study material, lack of a peaceful environment for studying, pressure to work, toxic/abusive households, etc as factors that have left students in no state to give exams in the middle of a pandemic.”

says an outstation candidate
Final year students on @scrapobe

Why isn’t the university listening to these voices? Why is there so much of attachment with taking exams than focussing on larger issues like infrastructure and teaching ? This whole OBE issue brings to light the failure of Indian Education system. More than that it highlights insensitivity towards students from marginalized backgrounds who can’t afford taking online exams.

“The UGC guidelines are silent on important issues raised by teachers and students. With over 10 lakh COVID cases, the situation warrants a more creative alternative. At DU, both procedure and pattern of exams have changed for students. This, in itself is unnerving. Failure of Mock OBE and frequent shift in Datesheets have left students worried. “

says Abha Dev Habib, Treasurer, DUTA

Thus, Delhi University needs to stop playing the “datesheet- changes ” game and come up with creative, feasible and accommodative alternatives to OBE.

Featured Image Credits: DU Beat Archives

Navneet Kaur

navneetkaur27082001@gmail.com

Author

Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history.Freedom to Express.