Exams amid Pandemic creating mental pressure on students
Exams amid Pandemic creating mental pressure on students

Lucknow: The country's economy has suffered a tremendous setback due to the Corona epidemic, but the biggest shock is the loss of children's education. The economic situation of individuals as well as the country will improve later, but recovering loss of students' education may not be fully possible. This uncertainty in the surrounding for the remaining exams had destabilized the psyche of high school, intermediate and graduation students of CBSE and CISCE boards. The UP board has already declared the results by conducting examinations, while CBSE and CISCE, after going on for more than five month examinations,  have now declared the results as per revised assessment. Graduation exams are now ready to be conducted by the end of September. Lack of proper system of studies has proved to be a 'leprosy scab' following the uncertainty of not having examinations. With the undertaking of Unlock-1 decision, 'e-learning' does not appear to be very successful. Children are not able to fully devote themselves to studies. School environment and discipline kept them focussed, while the 'home environment' maintains an umbrella quite casually which is quite unsuitable.

The uncertainty regarding the exams of CBSE and CISCE boards was ended with the decision that results of the examination of all the students would be released on different grounds. However CBSE was not in favour of declaring the results without conducting examination. Parents of some students went to the Supreme Court to request postponement. After this, both the boards cancelled the remaining examinations of 10th and 12th, preparing to release the results. CISCE on 10 July and CBSE on 13 July thereby released the results. A total of 99.33% students passed the CISCE exams in class 10 and 96.8% in class 12. Last year, 98.54% students passed the Class X and 96.52% students in the 12th standard. The CISCE board will not announce the merit list this time and students will get a mark sheet with digital sign. Despite this, what will happen to the students' education? Is it still in the womb of uncertainty?

However, the CBSE board decided to reduce the 9th to 12th standard curriculum by 30 percent with the help of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) following the suggestion of HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal. The topics that are either repeated or covered in another chapter will be removed in order for the course to be revised. Ramesh Pokhriyal tweeted on July 7 “CBSE had been advised to revise the syllabus for class 9th to 12th to reduce the burden of studies on students due to the outbreak of Corona epidemic.” Prior to CBSE, CISCE had decided to reduce syllabus of all major subjects of class 10th and 12th by 25% for the upcoming session. The board of education said in an official statement that the decision was taken after consulting experts for the loss of instructional hours during the current session 2020-21. The reduction in syllabus has been done while ensuring that the core concepts related to the subjects can be maintained.

Confusion prevails despite UGC guidelines. Graduation level examinations were also not completed before lockdown. The University Grants Commission (UGC) in its recent meeting (on 6 July) decided not to recommend the cancellation of final semester (or final year) exams for graduate batches. It also suggested all institutions to get these exams done by September. It was decided in the meeting that the examination can be conducted online, offline or in both modes. Apart from this, the results of the last semester or semester other than the last year will be declared on the basis of past performance and internal evaluation. The UGC also commented that the performance in the exam provides confidence and satisfaction to the students and is a reflection of the ability, performance and credibility that is required for global acceptance. In a statement issued to the media after the meeting, the UGC conveyed its decision and said, "Educational evaluation is a very important milestone in every education system."

The Ministry of Home Affairs in a statement said that universities and colleges have been allowed to conduct examinations, but the examinations will be conducted only as per the UGC guidelines in the end. This meeting of the UGC was held on April 29 to re-issue the 'Alternative Alternate Calendar' in revised form. It was decided in the symbolic calendar that the universities would conduct the final year or final semester exam from July 1 to 15 and would declare the result by the end of the month. If a final year student is not able to appear for any reason, the university will conduct special examinations for such course or question paper or whenever appropriate to give a chance. This special arrangement will only be for the current academic session (2019-20). In the month of April, the Commission had constituted a committee of experts to take a decision on examinations and new sessions in universities. In late June, when the number of corona virus patients was steadily increasing, the UGC asked the committee to give an opinion on examinations, admissions in universities and colleges, new academic calendar. In the meeting held on July 6 of the Commission, new guidelines were issued as per committee suggestions.

These new directives from the UGC are likely to have an impact on the schedule of examinations to be conducted across the country, especially in states like Gujarat and Karnataka which were awaiting regulatory stance on the issue. But it is not yet clear whether Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh will now revisit their decision to cancel all examinations in higher education under this changed situation. It is possible that only after the new guidelines of the UGC related to the final year and semester examinations are issued, the governments of Uttar Pradesh as well as other states can take any final decision in this direction. In Uttar Pradesh alone, more than 48 lakh students registered in 18 state universities and other institutions will be affected by UGC guidelines. It is noteworthy that earlier on 30 April 2020, UGC had issued calendars and guidelines for new session in universities and other higher education institutions. 

Despite the release of UGC guidelines, there is confusion about graduation level examinations. The Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) had expressed its unhappiness with the new guidelines of the UGC (University Grants Commission) regarding the examinations of the universities, saying “The Commission has completely ignored the student interests. Students and parents have continuously been demanding the cancellation of examinations using the tag 'Student Lives Matter' on social media citing the corona epidemic. There is no change in the COVID-19 figures."The contradictory order of the Ministry of Home Affairs shows that the mental and physical health of millions of students has been compromised. The Sangh asked how the degree can be given on the basis of the examination in which there is no system of rigging. Perhaps under this pressure, Delhi's Kejriwal government has announced the cancellation of graduation exams. But this doesn’t end. The Commission still argues in favour of conducting examinations and asked to conduct final year examinations in all states.

On this issue, UGC Secretary Prof. Rajneesh Jain said during a conversation with ANI on July 9, "If we do not conduct the examinations of the final year students, then this will raise the question of the validity of their degree." We found that due to the circumstances of COVID-19 and the safety and health of students, it was not possible to conduct the exam in July, so guidelines have been issued to conduct the exam by 30th of February. Universities and colleges can conduct examinations in any mode online, offline or blended. Prof Jain has appealed to all the states to conduct the exams of the final year students of all the universities in their place. He said, we have come to know that many states have cancelled the examinations of their universities here. But it is very important to have uniformity in the level of higher education in the country. As such, those states should also conduct examinations as per the guidelines of the UGC. It is very important to conduct the exams of the final year students of graduation and post graduation.

There is a possibility of considerable delay in the new education system. Significantly, the Kuhad committee, which suggested the UGC to conduct examinations, also suggested that the new teaching session should start in the first week of November for undergraduate students and the first week of December for post graduate students. But the issue was not addressed during the July 6 meeting. UGC guidelines issued for conducting graduate examinations have not reached the universities through proper means. Lucknow University Controller of Examinations Prof. Am Saxena said, UGC guidelines for conducting examinations have reached the UP government, but the government has not yet issued any direction to the university in this matter. Only after getting any instructions in this direction from the state government, will the university take a decision in this direction.

President of Lucknow University Teachers Association, Prof. Neeraj Jain on this issue said, “Examinations must be held. Students passing the examination will not have any value of the degree. If there is more difficulty in conducting examinations, the session can be reduced to zero, but without taking the exam, there will be no 'out' of any degree given to the students. In such a situation, the degree award should be arranged only after the examination is conducted.”

It is doubtful about when the graduation examinations will be held. Will it be conducted or not? When can the PG session be started? How can it be clearly stated? Lucknow University Admission Co-ordinator on the question of how long the new session will start said, “In the current situation it is not possible to say clearly how long the sessions can be started. Right now the uncertainty about the graduation exams is still there, so the session is a later matter. Admission cell is currently preparing for the B.Ed entrance from August 9. In such a situation, there is a greater possibility that it may be too late to start a new teaching session.”

Associate Professor Rashmi Soni of Jaynarayan PG College on being asked about conduction of exams said, “Less than 50% of teachers currently take online classes. Also no one is bothering about students’ psychology. What is gonna happen with them? What is the future? Notices shouldn’t change in that frequent manner. This is panicking students. There must be a proper action to it.”

“It’s again a lockdown in several states. There is a complete lack of data and planning. We have no proper system of conducting online examinations. People yet are equally careless of precautions. This spread doesn’t seem to be in control in the nearby months. The session could be declared zero for the year. Earlier in the history of Lucknow University, this has happened. Calling up the crowd isn’t a wise thought in this situation,” she added.