A national board may be established to conduct on-demand examinations at the undergraduate degree level, a University Grants Commission panel has recommended. Starting with distance programmes for popular degree courses, on-demand examinations should be open to all, without any age or eligibility restrictions, it said.
The UGC panel on evaluation reforms was set up in May 2018 and chaired by Bharati Vidyapeeth Vice-Chancellor M.M. Salunkhe. In its report released last week, it recommended the development of question banks, relative grading, higher weightage to internal assessments and full choice-based credit transfer in all higher education institutions.
Reform recommendations were built around the fact that many students graduating from undergraduate and postgraduate programmes across the country are unemployable. To change that situation, curricula and evaluation systems must focus on learning outcomes, knowledge, attitudes and skills though a more flexible framework than currently exists.
One of the novel suggestions to enhance flexibility comes in the form of on-demand examinations. “Assessment can take place when the learners consider themselves ready to appear. Thus readiness depends on the learner and not institutions,” said the report. “An advantage of this system may result in reduced number of failures [and] malpractices in examinations.”
This would initially aid students of distance education programmes. The initiative envisions extensive use of technology and automation and question papers drawn from question banks.
In fact, the panel suggests that question banks be used more widely in question paper setting across the university system. The UGC should initiate the development of large, well-thought out question banks for major subjects, drawing on the expertise of teachers from across the country and improving the quality of testing, said the report. Specific examinations can then draw about 70% of questions from such banks, with another 30% of questions coming from the individual paper-setter.
The panel also recommended that all autonomous or high-ranked institutions start to follow a relative grading system, instead of the current absolute grading system, thus allowing for comparative performances among peers and reducing the negative effect of pass and fail grades. Such institutions should also consider higher levels of internal and continuous forms of assessment, as high as 60%, said the panel, adding that all institutions should have some internal assessment, with a recommended proportion of 30% to begin with.
While the UGC issued guidelines to all universities in 2015 to offer students a choice based credit system, the current reality is that there is little flexibility or choice for learners, said the panel. It added that students should have the freedom to opt for courses beyond their core specialisations. Uniform grading and credit transfer policies must be evolved for this to work, said the report.