The University of Calicut’s attempt to reform the semester system has run into rough weather over the evaluation of answer scripts, writes ABDUL LATHEEF NAHA.

The attempt of the University of Calicut to implement the recommendations of the Hridayakumari committee on the choice-based credit-and-semester system for degree courses, ahead of other universities in the State, has run into rough weather with the principals of its affiliated colleges objecting to some of the modifications the university has made.

A meeting of the principals, convened by Vice-Chancellor M. Abdul Salam on the university campus a couple of weeks ago, saw a few of them raising voices of dissent on matters of evaluation. Particularly unhappy were the principals of self-financing colleges who were keen to wash their hands of the responsibility of evaluating the answer scripts.

Although the university has given only a draft order, suggesting that the valuation of the answer scripts of students of all semesters in a college be done by the teachers of the same institution, many principals have mistaken it as a final directive. Some principals reportedly used the draft order for political mileage as well.

Though the Vice-Chancellor suggested that the valuation be done by the teachers of the same college, he said that for even semesters, the work would be done under the supervision of an external examiner appointed by the Controller of Examinations.

It was this suggestion by Dr. Salam which stirred up a hornets’ nest. “The Hridayakumari committee report has never made such a recommendation. The onus of conducting examinations and evaluating the answer scripts lies with the university, and not with the principals of respective colleges,” K. Ibraine, Priyadarshini Arts and Science College, Malappuram, says.

The Principals’ Council of Unaided Colleges, of which Mr. Ibraine is president, criticised the Vice-Chancellor for making such a suggestion. It warned that the university move would destroy the seriousness and sanctity of the examination system. “The university should not go ahead with such a move unilaterally. In fact, what we need is discussions at different levels,” Mr. Ibraine says.

The principals of unaided colleges have been objecting to it largely because of the lack of accountability from their faculty members. The teachers appointed on temporary or contract basis in unaided colleges are likely to leave their posts anytime they like. They will switch posts, firms or jobs depending on the salary offered. “Entrusting them with the responsibility of evaluating answer scripts will not be good,” Mr. Ibraine says.

Confusion

Many principals and teachers were led to confusion when the university said it was implementing the reforms on the basis of the Siraj committee report. The university soon corrected itself saying that it was a mistake. K.A. Siraj, Syndicate member who has been entrusted with the task of preparing regulations for implementing the recommendations of the Hridayakumari Commission Report, told The Hindu-EducationPlus that there was no such committee as Siraj committee.

When pressure started mounting, the university withdrew its new directions on conducting of examinations and evaluation of the answer scripts. The reforms will be introduced only after discussions with all stakeholders, the university authorities said.

Despite the factional feud being displayed by the members of the Syndicate, the university on Saturday kindled a new discussion on turning the examination system into the objective format. A meeting Dr. Salam held with the deans of academic programmes pointed out that most examinations conducted by the University Grants Commission (UGC), including its widely popular National Eligibility Test (NET), were objective in nature.

Reiterating that the onus of conducting examinations, evaluating the answer scripts and conducting re-evaluations, was a cumbersome task on the university, the Vice-Chancellor suggested that 50 per cent of the questions be made objective.

Dr. Siraj mooted that all the questions of odd semester examinations could be made objective. He said the proposals would be given to the respective boards of studies to decide. To prevent cheating and copying by the students, especially when the examination goes objective, the university can give four sets of question papers. “Shuffling of the four sets of different question papers will help in preventing copying,” Dr. Siraj said.

Re-evaluation, Dr. Siraj said, is a major issue facing the university today. For example, the university has got as many as 8,000 applications for the fourth semester B.Tech examinations.

“First, we got to sort out the 8,000 answer scripts currently stored in respective examination centres. The university does not have the staff strength to do the culling. Therefore, we have asked the colleges to sort out the answer scripts needing revaluation,” Dr. Salam said.

The statutory standing committee on examination has recommended that colleges register their students for examinations soon after they join the campuses. Different districts will be given different dates to register for the examination.

The university has decided to increase its server capacity to avoid jamming of its website when students register online immediately before the deadline.

Since November 20, the university has made online all notifications, letters, circulars, orders, examination time table, and examination calendars issued by its Examination Wing. Those documents will no longer be sent by post to colleges and examination centres.

The university has asked the college authorities, including principals and examination superintendents, to check the university website and the e-mail inboxes of respective colleges for all matters about examinations.

University authorities said they would not be responsible for any lapses or faults arising out of the failure to note the notifications and messages on the website.