Students of universities in Kerala are troubled by disruption of the examination calendar. G. KRISHNAKUMAR looks at the problem and tries to find out if any solution is in the offing.
Erratic examination schedules and frequent disruptions of the examination calendar have put university students in the State in a tight spot.
Failure of universities to stick to their examination schedule remains a major problem, leading to the complete breakdown of the examination system. Despite coming out with the schedule last year, very few varsities stuck to it. Lack of professionalism led to the crashing of the system owing to frequent changes made to the examination timetable.
Regular changes being made in the schedule have delayed completion of academic programmes in colleges affiliated to leading universities in the State. Rescheduling of the examinations was one of many reasons for disruption last year.
Students are worried, as the delay eventually stretches the duration of their academic programmes. Several sections of students have approached the university authorities requesting them not to make further changes in the examination schedule.
Students in colleges affiliated to Mahatma Gandhi University allege that a “group” has been consistently making efforts to change the timetable for various examinations. They say some persons work hard to ensure that examinations for the regular batch are held only after the supplementary examinations are conducted for failed students.
Senior officials in the examination wings of various universities who do not want to be quoted say that examinations are rescheduled following pressure from various quarters. A popular method is to approach the court with pleas for postponement.
The examination wings make changes based on requests given by a section of the students. For postponement of exams, some groups go on a signature campaign on the campus.
A similar campaign was held at the Government Law College in Ernakulam recently. But regular students allege that most signatures included in such campaigns are forged. Those active behind such campaigns fail to get the support of the college authorities for rescheduling the examination calendar. The university has now asked principals not to entertain such requests.
Lack of administrative will to stick to the academic and examination schedule has triggered protests from both teachers and students in various universities. For instance, the change in the schedule affected the smooth conduct of postgraduate semester courses in various colleges this academic year.
There have been instances in which fourth semester candidates had not received even their first semester results. Moreover, some of the universities had not announced the commencement and termination dates of teaching segments during a semester, landing the students in trouble.
College teachers say the decision by universities to combine private and off-campus valuation work created this impasse. Regular teachers in affiliated colleges are compulsorily drawn into the examination work of self-financing and off-campus courses. Teaching work gets affected when several teachers are deputed for examination work related to self-financing courses. Teachers demand that the regular and self-financing or off-campus streams be separated to save the regular courses in affiliated colleges of the university.
Universities had received brickbats for collecting an additional fee from students for centralised valuation of their postgraduate examination papers. Despite the fee, results are not out on time.
Students and teachers now urge the university officials to properly review the course and syllabi of postgraduate programmes. Teachers suggest that workshops for reviewing and streamlining the programmes be held regularly.
Citing the acute shortage of teachers for valuation of answer papers as the major reason for the delay in publication of results, university authorities say the State government should take the initiative in appointing staff for the smooth conduct of the examination process. Temporary workers cannot be handed over works of a confidential nature, they say.
Top university officials say the recruitment of teachers will help not only in speeding up the examination process but also in improving the quality of education offered in colleges. The university Act does not allow guest lecturers to value answer sheets.
An increasing number of educational institutions getting affiliated to universities have worsened the problem. Every year, universities in the State conduct hundreds of examinations for students in its affiliated colleges.
Students say that the delay in the conduct of the examinations will affect their career prospects. Most of the students who apply for higher studies fear that they will not able to produce the required mark lists and certificates during admission. The delay has caused problems to those who got job offers from leading companies during campus recruitments.
Most of the students have to join various companies on or before the first week of July. For many, the delay means losing a chance for applying for higher studies. Students had experienced tense moments after they could not furnish the mark lists to companies that took them through campus recruitment last year.
Recommending changes in student evaluation, the State Higher Education Council has now suggested alternatives to the existing system. In its report on restructuring the undergraduate programmes, the council says adopting the semester system will substantially increase the burden of the universities, if all examinations are to be conducted by them.
"Hence it is essential that an alternative is evolved. A possible solution is continuous internal assessment. It may be introduced in stages. Any anxiety about the misuse of the system by victimisation/favouritism may be eliminated by ensuring transparency through open In-sem assessment and by evolving objective norms for assessment," the report says.
Experts who came up with the recommendations say that a reliable mechanism for grievance redress should be put in place. Complete internal assessment must wait till the system gains wider acceptability.
Till then, In-sem internal assessment must be combined with End-sem external assessment.
The report says that examination reforms are essential to bring in the desired effects of the proposed restructuring. It finds that questions which require simple memory recall do not help in assessing the achievement of objectives.
They do not test the ability of the student to apply knowledge to a new situation. The school education system in Kerala has switched over to a creative assessment process and the higher education system needs to follow suit.
"A judicious mix of questions which assess (i) knowledge acquired; (ii) standard application of knowledge; (iii) application of knowledge in new situations; (iv) critical evaluation of knowledge; and (v) the ability to synthesize knowledge drawn from various sources would be required," the report said. The examination wing should be computerised by June 2009. Examination reforms are to be initiated immediately and finalised by then.
With the new academic year round the corner, students and parents have urged the university authorities to take steps for conducting its exams without any delay.
They want authorities to take immediate steps to ensure that examination will be held according to the schedule. Students, parents and teachers want the university authorities to take urgent steps to put the exam schedule back on track. They hope that the new academic year will not be a repeat of the previous years.