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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Cancel final year exams: Former chairperson, educators write to UGC

Those who argue that cancelling exams will devalue degrees must explain how holding a farcical “virtual” exam that lacks the basic features of the real thing will enhance their value, the letter read.

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi | Updated: July 10, 2020 11:27:40 am
UGC, final year exams, ugc guidelines, education news Protects the integrity of the examination by refusing to abandon its two most basic features – impartiality, or equal treatment of all examinees; and close supervision to prevent cheating, read the letter. (Representational image)

Former University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairperson Sukhdeo Thorat, along with 27 teachers from various universities in the country, has written to the current UGC Chairman asking him to cancel the decision to hold exams for final semester/year students and instead evaluate them on past performance.

Read | UGC ex-chairperson, 27 others call for scrapping of final year exams

The letter sent Thursday is signed by Thorat along with professors from Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), University of Hyderabad, University of Mumbai and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, among others.

“The UGC’s latest advisory on examinations is unfortunate because it takes us backwards rather than forward. It effectively extends the period for holding of exams (for final year/semester cohorts) until September, the second such postponement. And it creates fresh uncertainty for states that had already decided to cancel exams,” the letter addressed to UGC Chairman D P Singh reads.

“The recommendation to cancel exams was prompted by an unprecedented health emergency, not by doubts about the value of examinations. When faced with such an emergency, cancelling exams has two main advantages: First, it avoids the extended uncertainty created by repeated (but unavoidable) postponements. Second, it protects the integrity of the examination by refusing to abandon its two most basic features – impartiality, or equal treatment of all examinees; and close supervision to prevent cheating,” it further says.

Read| Students unhappy with UGC’s new guidelines, demand cancellation of term-end exam

The signatories said examinations held in the “online” or “mixed” modes will be “biased because they will favour students with better access to the internet and work against students whose access is precarious” and since “there is no viable method of ensuring proper invigilation of online exams” terming them “open book” is an “attempt to rename a failing as a virtue”.

“Cancelling exams during a pandemic is sensible and fair precisely because examinations are important and must not be devalued. It is to be expected that the uncertainties of a pandemic situation will create a genuine need for repeated postponements. Using alternative methods of evaluation based on each student’s own past performance (in exams conducted in normal times) offers a fair solution and brings closure, with the option of retaking the exam when normalcy is restored,” they wrote.

READ | As colleges prep to reopen, some campuses to act as isolated spaces

“Those who argue that cancelling exams will devalue degrees must explain how holding a farcical “virtual” exam that lacks the basic features of the real thing will enhance their value. We appeal to the UGC to reconsider its advisory and protect the interests of students and the integrity of examinations by ending uncertainty and cancelling exams for final semester/year cohorts,” they added.

Besides Thorat, some other signatories are Professors Apooravanand, Madhulika Banerjee, Satish Deshpande, Sunil Kumar, Shobhit Mahajan, Rajni Palriwala, Ujjwal Kumar Singh, N Sukumar and Nandini Sundar from DU, and Professor Ayesha Kidwai from JNU, along with others from other universities of the country.

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