Political student groups linked to the Congress and Left have slammed the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) decision to conduct final year examinations, saying it ignores concerns about students’ health and fair access to online teaching and examinations, while encouraging rote learning by overemphasising the importance of a final examination. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s student wing welcomed the decision, saying assessment of graduating students was crucial for future studies or employment.
Top five hashtags
Meanwhile, #StudentsLivesMatter and #cancelfinalyearexams were among the top five trending hashtags on Twitter on Tuesday, jointly garnering over 150,000 tweets.
The Akhil Bhratiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which is linked to the ruling party, said it had reached out to more than 8 lakh students and arrived at the opinion that assessment of final year students is in their own best interest. “ABVP has been consistent in its opinion that assessment of graduating students is crucial for their further studies or employment,” said a statement from the organisation’s official Twitter handle.
The Students Federation of India (SFI), which is affiliated to Left parties, noted that given the increasing trend of COVID-19 cases, “it is almost unthinkable that examinations can be held physically while maintaining social distancing. It is clear by the disparities of infrastructure and the laxity generally shown towards marginalised students in government operated institutions that neither physical distancing will be followed nor will students who stay in different places from their place of study will be able to come back and give examinations,” it said in a statement.
‘Only the affluent’
With regard to the online mode, SFI noted that “NSSO (National Sample Survey Office) data on Internet connectivity and access in Indian households points to the fact that only affluent urban households would have unlimited access to high speed internet. Most of the students would never be able to attend online classes (requiring high speed unlimited data for video conferencing software) and neither able to download videos.” Students in Kashmir, where only 2G services are allowed, would be especially affected, along with students grappling with quarantine, mental health issues, caring for sick relatives, and economic stress, it added.
The National Students’ Union of India, affiliated to the Congress, said the government has been deaf to the concerns of students. “We won’t let you play with students’ future,” said a tweet from the official handle, noting that India currently has the world’s third highest number of COVID-19 cases.
“If IIT Bombay can cancel final year exams and extrapolate from previous assessments, why can’t other universities? Education [is] much more than exams and this narrow-minded view will endanger student health,” tweeted Ruchi Gupta, National Students’ Union of India national in-charge.