A look at the inherently privileged notions behind the avenues explored by Delhi University (DU) regarding end semester examinations and their feasibility.
DU has released forms to register for even semester examinations online, a move which shows that the total cancellation of exams during the pandemic is not on DU’s agenda yet. In the light of the pandemic and seeing how cancelling exams is not a viable possibility, multiple reports suggest that DU is looking at the option of online examinations to conduct end semester examination, an option Jawaharlal Nehru University had also explored last year during the university lockdown. While the idea does completely do away with the risks of catching the disease, there are some inherent privileges behind the very concept.
A Public University in India does not just cater to a certain section of society or certain parts of the country, DU has students from all over the country coming from every section of society. Even though India is the second-highest in several internet users, only around 50% of the population has access to it, and less so in rural areas. Adding to that, the frequent internet shutdowns and the situation in Kashmir created by our government, the very idea that everyone will be able to access the internet to give their exams is privileged in itself.
The first-hand account of a Kashmiri DU student shows how online exams are inaccessible for students in the valley. They say “If there are online exams, it will be very difficult for the students who are in Kashmir right because there is only 2G internet speed here. Sometimes we can attend all the classes and the connection is good but sometimes even in downloading a single page, it takes a lot of time and effort. It is unpredictable. Even today during the Commerce exam there were a lot of problems, the connection was not proper and was getting disconnected again and again.”
There should be an emphasis on the fact that learning through online classes and e-resources may not be feasible given the limited or no access to computers and the internet, particularly in rural areas.
Aan Mary Suresh, a student of Jesus and Mary College said, “I wish DU understood that more than our country’s lack of technical expertise to conduct exams online, we as students are neither well equipped nor prepared to take these exams at one moment. I am sorry but Zoom classes are not helpful. Students are new to this form of learning and the experiment whether this would be successful should not be on us.”
The online process of paper setting, submission of answers, and evaluation are susceptible to tampering and pilferage. An extremely weak university server, one which cannot even bear the internet traffic of filling exam registration forms just exemplifies that online examinations are not practicable at all.
The Delhi University Teachers’ Association, in its feedback to the University Grants Commission, said, “As per the MHRD/DU circulars, teachers have engaged with students through e-resources, this process is far from being adequate due to the lack of preparedness and institutional help provided to students and teachers. Students have reported facing issues of connectivity and access to sufficient bandwidth to be able to attend the online sessions. Given our student demography, it is important to recognise that a large section of students come from outside Delhi and that an equally significant number comes from underprivileged backgrounds and the environment at their homes is unlikely to be conducive for learning.”
It further added that the University and colleges have so far not been able to collect data on how many students have accessibility to the e-resources and lectures shared by teachers. Given the diverse population of students to whom the University of Delhi caters to and the student strength, the means and modes of assessment and examination adopted in the context of the lockdown should ensure that the solutions offered do not further marginalise the already marginalised sections of students or create a situation where large sections of students lose out due to the circumstances they face.
If Delhi University proceeds with online examinations; it won’t only make a mockery of higher education, but also set a dangerous precedent of survival of the fittest- an extremely prejudiced notion that just takes privileged people in its purview. Online Exams cannot happen in this economy, period.
Feature Image Credits: Prabhanu Kumar Das for DU Beat
Prabhanu Kumar Das