Postponement and/or cancellation of all examinations in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
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Dear Concerned Authorities,
This letter is regarding the grievances (which are still being updated in real time) with the current pattern of online examinations and classes employed by multiple schools, colleges and universities, all over the country and their indecision to do anything about it.
We regret that it has come to this. However, the institutions’ appalling negligence in this matter has left us no choice but to draft this letter in the hope that this might get us a substantive result. Over the past month, the students all over the country have continuously talked about the problems and difficulties faced by them to attend the online classes, let alone give online examinations during the lockdown which have been ignored by their respective administration. There have been hundreds of posts on social media which have been closely monitored by the administration of several of these institutions. There have been multiple Google forms created to address the issues and hundreds of emails sent to the administration by parents and students both. However, we still haven't gotten a decent informative reply about our future from the administrations a few weeks now.
COVID-19 cases have been increasing at an exponentially alarming rate and it is here to stay for a long time. We are witnessing the highest jump in cases per day and absolutely no one is sure how dreadful the situation is going to be two months from now. According to the statistics we have, based on current numbers, we're going to have a peak in June and reach approximately one million cases by the end of June.
Hence, taking examinations and classes online without knowing how the mental, physical, and emotional situation of the students appearing for the exams, is downright unethical and deplorable.
Most colleges (including all of Mumbai University and IIT Bombay along with some other universities) have cancelled their exams and are using alternate methods of evaluation according to UGC guidelines while almost all the other schools/colleges/universities are clearly flouting them. What we are asking for is not unreasonable. What IS unreasonable, however, is expecting students to study for exams while fearing for their lives due to this pandemic and go outside to fish for stationery implements breaking social distancing rules.
There were certain universities which took out their personal software to conduct online examinations, but the apps were mostly MS Windows-based. When asked by students what students with other Operating Systems should do, their replies were apathetic.
"The online exam application currently only supports MS Windows. Therefore, if you do not have a laptop with Windows OS, we request you to make arrangements to hire/ borrow one for the duration of the exams. The same device has to be used for all the exams that you take online."
“Minimum we are expecting from students. Do not panic. Think with a cool head and try to get it.
"Rent a Laptop. It's not that hard."
"Country is open now. Why can't you buy stationery from nearby stores?”
The UGC guidelines clearly stated that in case online proctoring tests require students to break social distancing rules, they can adopt alternative methods to evaluate students. CLEARLY, the administrations of the colleges and schools are asking us to break basic social distancing rules and put us and our family at risk of infection.
A student from MIT had posted a screenshot of a chat on twitter citing how unsafe this method is and it was putting our lives at unnecessary risk. This tweet quickly went viral. However, it had to be deleted due to pressure. The swiftness of this action and not receiving a decent reply from respective administrations of our institutions has left us in shock, proving that the institutions are willfully ignoring our grievances and alternate solutions.
Even though these problems have been shared with the respective administrations countless times, we would still like to take this opportunity to readdress these issues.
1. This lockdown is a very stressful time for all of us and is not a conducive environment for learning.
2. Most of us are unable to respond to this mode of learning in a positive way.There are many students who have left their laptops and notes/textbooks back at college and have come back home, thinking that the college(s) will probably reopen after a week.
3. There are many students who are stuck in areas with bad network coverage and will not be able to prepare for these exams, let alone take them online. Several students from cyclone-hit areas barely have any network.
4. Getting a failing grade for students who couldn't attempt online tests and giving these exams later in the form of makeup exams in the next semester will put additional pressure on them, causing their grades to go lower even further for this and the following semester, which is unfair.
5. Due to the lockdown, all the repair centres are shut, hence the students who are facing difficulties with their laptops will not be able to learn and take part in these online exams. Borrowing Laptops from neighbours for months altogether isn't an option.
6. For many students, the environment at home is not ideal for giving online exams, giving other students an unfair advantage. Some of us live in a busy neighbourhood. Expecting students to create the same scenario of having all the house activities come to a halt, and maintain the pin-drop silence is not only next to impossible but laughable.
7. There are people whose parent(s) are doctors/nurses/ police officers who have a lot of other responsibilities to take care of, during this pandemic, let alone their mental state. They are also at great risk themselves to be infected, and thus can’t even attend classes, let alone give online examinations.
8. If we don't have the required stationary, we have to borrow or maybe deliver to those who don't have them. In doing so, we have a chance of getting infected. This puts the students and parents at high risk.
9. There are multiple households which come from underprivileged backgrounds and poor backgrounds, who do not have the availability of devices and other prerequisites to attend online classes.
10. A major number of institutions haven't taken the responsibility to ensure that even if the students do have the devices, are they able to attend online classes and understand what is being taught to them.
11. There was no availability of books and required equipment/stationary, because of books stores being closed, at least till 17th May 2020. How will the students even begin to understand their curriculum w/o any proper guidance, let alone give online tests?
12. Even though the books stores have started to open after 17th May 2020, there are still households who aren't able to afford books and other required equipment for their children because of the loss of their source of income, or their continuously diminishing savings.
13. Even if there are schools who have taken the availability of devices issue into account, there is still the issue of the faculty itself not being equipped and tech educated enough to teach online, let alone the students being able to navigate through such mediums.
14. This decision of schools/colleges/institutions to run online classes grossly affects the poor and the marginalised communities
Here are a few alternatives/solutions in accordance with the UGC guidelines institutions can adopt:
Some have suggested deferring the exams until quarantine measures are relaxed; Some have suggested using predicted grades, and others have proposed moving to a coursework-oriented assessment. Each of these options has its merits and demerits: deferring exams may be useful for those who will struggle to study over the next few weeks, but inconvenient in the upcoming semester; predicted grades are suitable for those with favourable CGPA, less useful for those who wanted a chance to prove themselves in exams. Each of these options will work well for some, but not for everyone.
Hence, the only solution we think actually works and benefits all students is this:
The schools/colleges/universities should cancel the exams for the time being, and conduct them once the situation becomes better. The Maharashtra Government has already cancelled examinations for all year students, so it definitely can be done by other states and private institutions too.
Bombarding students with exams one after the other amid a pandemic is inhumane. Schools/Colleges/Universities should care about the amount of pressure they choose to put on students. They need to start taking the voice of students seriously. The unlimited number of colleges who have cancelled their exams did it in the best interest of both the students and the teachers. Upon asking the teachers for their opinions, we discovered that most of the teachers do not even want to conduct the tests and are being forced to, as they have to follow orders from higher authorities.
It takes an emotional and mental toll on the students and teachers everywhere and we can say this on the behalf of all of our fellow students when we say that some sort of compensation is not something that's impossible for the college to provide. Please understand this from the point of view of the students and not from the colleges/schools/universities.
Schools/Colleges/Universities need to understand what they're suggesting is a cure worse than the disease.
We rest our case.
PS: This letter is addressed to the concerned authorities of the respective states, The HRD Ministry, The Education Ministry, and whom-so-ever-it-may-concern.We're not saying this is not going to work but since for the past month our grievances haven’t been heard, it becomes necessary for us to publish this letter on social media too. In times like this, solidarity amongst us students is paramount.
Hence, this will be published on all possible Social Media sites.
We are also sharing a document named, “Student Feedback Analysis: Grievance Form (Responses)” to help further our cause.
It is not our intention to hurt/offend anyone. We are putting forth our grievances and concerns, in hopes of some redressal
Concerned and Grief-Stricken Students of the Country.
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