COVID-19| Final Year student writes to CJI raising concern over conduct of examinations

“Conducting pan-India examinations in the midst of the novel pandemic would be equivalent to turning a blind eye to the interests and genuine concerns of the student fraternity, besides putting the country at a far greater risk by making this a potential reason for a possible community spread.”

A final year student has written to the Chief Justice of India Justice SA Bobde asking him to take suo-moto cognizance in the issue involving the conduct of final year examinations as directed by the University Grant Commission. The letter attempts to bring into the attention of the Court, the concern over the safety of millions of final year students and their families, invigilators, evaluators, transport authorities, support staff and several other key stakeholders, either directly or indirectly, involved in the examination process.

The letter written by Anshritha Rai, a final year student of ILS Law College, Pune, states that though the UGC has provided universities the option to conduct exams in either an offline (pen and paper) or online or blended (offline ­+ online) mode, no matter which mode is adopted, there are a myriad number of practical, technological and institutional difficulties that are sure to be encountered.

“Online mode of examinations, however, neglects socio-economic diversity and inequality of internet access. Likewise, holding physical examinations has its own glaring set of shortcomings.”

It further highlights that a large section of students reside either indifferent parts of India or in other countries. Mandating terminal semester examinations would compel these students to travel inter-state amid the virus, share rooms with other students, make arrangements for food and undergo quarantine before appearing for examinations.

“More worryingly, students and all others connected with the conduct of such exams could be potential carriers of the virus thereby posing a serious health hazard to all those that they come in contact with in the process of reaching exam centres.”

The letter also mentions that soon after the UGC Guidelines were released, the Maharashtra Government unequivocally reiterated its inability to hold final year examinations in a letter addressed to the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Moreover, UGC itself has cancelled all intermediate examinations. UGC’s guidelines, which mandatorily require final year students to appear for examinations by September end, is arbitrary and in blatant disregard of the fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution.

“It is highly regretful that an arbitrary distinction is being drawn between intermediate and final year students. If this exercise were to be carried out, the lives of all final year students pan India would be put in grave peril. This is evinced by the recent Karnataka SSLC exam fiasco where 32 students tested positive.”

Stating that the crisis has the potential for reforming our education system, the student states,

“The unabated focus on mandating university exams and sticking to traditional patterns is indicative of the flaws in our higher education system. Our strict examination-oriented culture has frequently come under fire for failing to develop practical skills and critical reasoning. Credibility and intellectual prowess has little to or has no connection with examination grades.”

Read the full text of the letter here

Read the details of UGC’s revised guidelines on conduct of final year exams here

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