To Provide flexible exam scheme for DU Students

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Students of DU are facing extreme anxiety due to the uncertainty regarding end-semester and practical examinations. This anxiety has accentuated due to the rumours that the university is planning online examinations as the only alternative. The following is a petition submitted to the Vice-Chancellor of the university - Prof. Tyagi - by 23 students of 17 colleges, including Student Union representatives. 

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Prof. Yogesh K Tyagi, 

The Vice-Chancellor,

The University of Delhi. 

Subject: Regarding the concerns of students over the possibility of online examinations

Respected Sir,

We, the undersigned, students of various colleges of Delhi University, would like to draw your attention to the various concerns expressed by the students of the university over rumours about the administration planning to hold online end semester examinations. 

We have got to know that the University has formed a 15-member Working Group on Examinations through its notification on May 6, 2020. The Working Group will study all matters related to examinations, review the preparedness to conduct the examinations of 2019-20 session and take appropriate steps in this regard. To our dismay, there is no student representation to the Working Group, and therefore raises the concern that our plight will be neglected. Through this petition, we hope to bring to your notice the concerns of the students with the hope that the impossibility of having online examinations as the sole solution to such a large and diverse student community is aptly underlined. 

The Concerns – 

As you may know, the university has not provided the students with the required hours of lectures and classes which will equip them to sit for an end semester examination. Examinations without the completion of syllabus and proper classroom lectures will be reduced to a farce. In some colleges, teachers have attempted to complete their syllabus by organizing online classes. The attendance of such lectures in itself shows the impracticality of online classrooms in the context of DU. In most classes, students have observed, the attendance is not even 50% and in many classes, the attendance falls below one-third of the class strength. The issue of poor bandwidth in many regions of the country, as well as uneven access to internet facilities due to economic conditions of the student’s family, are prime reasons behind the dismal attendance. According to a report published in Scroll News Website, dated May 5, 2020, only 8% of the total households in the country with young members have access to a computer with internet at home. This in itself shows that online classes to complete the syllabus is not a viable option of a university with a diverse set of students. 

Furthermore, it must be noted that the announcement of lockdown happened when many students from states other than Delhi were back home to celebrate the festival of Holi. Since they went for a limited number of days, the students did not carry with them their class notes, personal notes, books, and other reading material. How can the university expect the students to sit for online examinations from their respective hometowns and villages when the study material and personal notes required are left behind in their rooms in Delhi? 

The two points made above also indicate the impossibility of carrying out online examinations. The prerequisite of exams, which are a mechanism to evaluate the understanding of a student about the syllabus, is that students are provided with unbiased and impartial footing by the administration. This is the reason why each student, irrespective of his or her class, caste, or race are allotted a seat in the examination hall. However, online examinations will deprive the students with poor internet availability or no internet, of competing with other students on an equal footing. Adding to the above points, it must be noted that many students will have to face various issues at home. Given most university students do not have their rooms of their own, how can the university expect the student to perform well in the exam without a home environment which permits a non-anxious attempt to sit for the exams? This is particularly a problem with women students, many of whom are expected to participate in household chores. Examinations have to be a test to evaluate the understanding of the student about the course, and not a test of economic and cultural privilege. 

There are further issues regarding online examinations which concerns a sub-set of the student population that we would like to bring to your notice. 

For BSc students, practical exams are a core component of the evaluation scheme. They have worked hard to maintain their practical files, and have spent hours each day learning about the practical components of their courses in university laboratories. Since the practical exams will require lab kits and physical presence of the students in the Labs, an online mode of examination will have to do away with this component. This will be extremely unfair for them if the university does away with the practical exam component of the evaluation scheme. 

Many final year students have applied to various other universities for Masters and MPhil/PhD programs. While we are hoping that the University will be coordinating with the UGC to ensure that fair chance is given to Delhi University students in since timelines of exams and results vary in various universities in the country, the same coordination is not possible with universities abroad. Many students have already applied, or plan to apply to universities abroad. It will be crucial that they receive their results and provisional degrees at the earliest. The university must take the concerns of such students into account. 

Our proposal - 

In the above section of the petition, will have tried our best to explain the major concerns raised by the students regarding online examinations, and the possibility of delay in results. It is clear to anyone empathetic to these various concerns that a straightjacket solution is not possible. While we believe that the ideal way to go forward is a pen and paper examination after the required classes are completed, we do understand that the current situation makes it difficult. The concern over whether the lockdown will open in the same week for all the states is unknown exists. Even if it opens, physical distancing norms may have to be followed which puts pressure on the university in terms of infrastructure. Moreover, a section of students may want their degrees sooner. 

Having considered this, we strongly believe that the extreme anxiety of students over the timeline of the semester, examinations and result can only be addressed if choices and options are made available to the students. If the university and the working group on examinations must adopt a flexible approach in these testing times to ensure that the mental health of the students is not deteriorated by their decision. With consultation amongst ourselves and the larger student community, we propose the following flexible graded method be adopted with regards to exams.

Each student can be asked to pick one of the following options – 

  1. To sit for a pen-and-paper examination 6 months from now. This will allow the students who do not have proper access to the internet and online resources to prepare well for the examinations. It will be crucial that the possibility of remedial classes for such students may be arranged in the next semester by the colleges.
  2. To sit for online examinations, as per date given the university. The university should decide on these dates keeping in mind an ample amount of time for self-study. The university must be mindful of the fact that this cannot be availed by many, and must not be the primary option available to the students.
  3. Alternately, the students can avail an option of receiving a grade for this semester by carrying over the CPGA accumulated in the previous semesters. This is particularly crucial for terminal students who would need provisional degrees. The formula for them can be the CPGA of the previous 5 semesters in case of UG, and previous 3 semesters in case of PG. The same formula can be offered to non-terminal year students as well. However, the option of taking a pen and paper exam in the future, i.e., in the upcoming even semester must be available to students who avail this option.

The adoption of the above proposal is not only feasible but will send the correct message amongst the students that the university cares for their legitimate concerns and is attempting whatever is possible under its arm to be inclusive of the diverse aspirations. Moreover, the University of Delhi – being one of the most reputed universities in the country will set the trends for other universities to follow. This will also increase the reputation of the university as an academically dynamic university which is determined to help students achieve their aspirations. 

We are writing this petition with the hope that the administration in general, and the Working Group on Examination, in particular, are genuinely interested in the concerns of the students and are eagerly searching of ways to ensure that no student drops out or faces a disadvantage which might add on to his or her deteriorating mental health in these testing times. 

Released by - 

  1. Unnimaya (General Secretary, College Students’ Union, LSR)
  2. Monjima Kar (Joint Secretary, Internal Affairs, Students’ Union Society, St. Stephen’s College)
  3. Abhijeet Pandey (Student Union President, Delhi College of Arts & Commerce)
  4. Zakir Hussain (Joint Secretary, Zakir Hussain College - Morning)
  5. Alina Naqvi (Secretary, History Association, LSR)
  6. Anantha Shekhar (BA (H) Economics, 2nd Year, Sri Ram College of Commerce)
  7. Anil Sethumadhavan (BA (H) Political Science, 3rd Year, Ramjas College)
  8. Aarushi Sharma (BSc (H) Computer Science, 1st Year, Miranda House)
  9. Daya K (BSc (H) Chemistry, 2nd Year, Miranda House)
  10. Suchintan Das (BA (H) History, 2nd Year, St. Stephen’s College)
  11. Utkarsh Sharma (BA (H) English, 3rd year, Hindu College) 
  12. YadhuKrishna (BSc (H) Chemistry, 2nd year, Hindu college)
  13. Abhijit Ajith N K (BSc (H) Chemistry, 2nd Year, Kirori Mal College)
  14. Saurav (BA (H) Economics, 2nd Year, Hansraj College)
  15. Bandi Sai Venkata Sadwika (BA programme, 1st year, Indraprastha college for women)
  16. Anagha Pavithran (B.A (H) Psychology, 2nd year, Indraprastha College for Women)
  17. Abhishek Kumar (BA (H) History, 3rd Year, Dyal Singh College - Morning)
  18. Kajal Prajapat (BA (H) History, 3rd year, Dyal Singh College - Morning)
  19. Kartikey Mishra (BA (H) History, 1st Year, Atma Ram Sanatan Dharma)
  20. Praveen Seera (BCom. (H), 2nd Year, Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar College)
  21. Abhijit Manilal (BA (H) Political Science, 2nd Year, Shaheed Bhagat Singh College)
  22. Akhil KM (LLB, 1st year, Law Centre II, Delhi University)
  23. Mounica Sreesai (MA Sociology, 2nd Year, Delhi School of Economics)