Bengal divided on whether college exams should be offline or online

Students protesting in front of main campus of University of Calcutta at College Street demanding online examinations.  Scores of students from different colleges participated in the protest.

Students protesting in front of main campus of University of Calcutta at College Street demanding online examinations. Scores of students from different colleges participated in the protest. | Photo Credit: DEBASISH BHADURI

Situation remains fluid in West Bengal — which recently witnessed protests by students — over the mode of conduct of college exams, with opinion as well as institutions divided over whether the assessment should be done online or offline.

Pressure is building on the State government to come out with a uniform policy that is binding on all, but the administration, citing autonomy of the universities, has so far stayed out of the matter, putting students on the warpath with their institutions.

Rabindra Bharati University and Jadavpur University have both announced to hold exams in the offline mode, while the University of Calcutta — which has close to 160 colleges affiliated to it — is yet to take a final decision even though it doesn’t appear inclined to entertain the students’ demand for online exams. More protests are expected once the university makes a formal announcement.

Vidyasagar University in Midnapore and Kalyani University, however, plan to hold online exams, whereas Kazi Nazrul University in Asansol has, as of now, decided to postpone the exams, scheduled to be held across the State in June. Students argue that since classes for most of the year were held online, exams should also be held online — a logic that doesn’t impress most of the teaching community.

“Offline classes were held in colleges affiliated to the University of Calcutta and most other universities in West Bengal from February to April 22, that is 12 weeks. Rules stipulate classes to be held 18 weeks per semester. So, the claim by a section of students that sufficient number of classes were not held is false and misleading,” said a teacher at Kolkata’s Maulana Azad College.

Students’ phobia

“But that doesn’t mean there is no basis in their phobia for offline exams. Appearing in person in an exam, writing (whatever) on a blank sheet within a time frame, is a skill that they forgot during the past two years. In fact, when offline classes began, extensive reorientation exercises were needed,” the teacher said.

Most teachers call online exams a farce, in which honest, meritorious students turn out to be the victims. “Unfortunately, they are a miniscule minority and we don’t hear their voices. In such an incendiary situation, the government must announce a uniform evaluation policy for all universities, something that would address the real anxieties of the students underprepared to face offline exams and also safeguard the future of meritorious students,” said another teacher associated with the University of Calcutta.

The West Bengal Government College Teachers’ Association has suggested increasing the weightage on internal evaluation and sticking to the decision to conduct offline examinations for all semesters.

Samata Biswas, who teaches English at the Sanskrit College and University, said: “Online examination, like online education, benefits the privileged. The ones with high-speed internet, high-res smart phones and access to the expensive private tutors and resources. So many students in the past semesters could not upload their answers scripts on time due to connectivity issues, or uploaded completely wrong documents. Given these constraints it is advisable to have physical examination, although I always feel evaluation ideally should be semester-long and developmental.”

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2022 5:40:17 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/bengal-divided-on-whether-college-exams-should-be-offline-or-online/article65480278.ece