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THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 10 JULY, 2020

Teachers, Scholars Appeal to UGC to Cancel Exams: ‘Protect Integrity and Impartiality’

‘Calling them “open book” is an attempt to rename a failing as a virtue’


NEW DELHI: University professors from around the country, including a number of central universities in Delhi, Bombay, Pune, Shillong and Hyderabad, have written to the University Grants Commission asking it to cancel exams in view of the prevailing health emergency, rather than postponing them repeatedly.

Former UGC chairman Sukhdeo Thorat is joined by a number of teachers and scholars in asking the incumbent chair Dhirendra Pal Singh to revise the UGC’s recent advisory and cancel exams to ensure fair play.

“When faced with such an emergency, cancelling exams has two main advantages,” the teachers write. “First, it avoids the extended uncertainty created by repeated but unavoidable postponements. Second, it protects the integrity of the examination by refusing to abandon its two most basic features – impartiality, or equal treatment of all examinees; and close supervision to prevent cheating.”

Thorat emphasises that the appeal is “a letter from teachers as teachers – not from any organisation or body. Moreover, it is not the result of a mass signature campaign – they could have got hundreds of signatures had they wished to do so.

“I am hoping that as fellow teachers committed to the welfare of our students and the integrity of our examinations, you and your colleagues in the Commission will take note of the widespread sentiment that this appeal represents.”

The text of the appeal:

APPEAL TO THE UNIVERSITY GRANTS COMMISSION TO REVISE ITS 6TH JULY ADVISORY

The UGC’s latest advisory on examinations is unfortunate because it takes us backwards rather than forward. It effectively extends the period for holding of exams (for final year/semester cohorts) until September, the second such postponement. And it creates fresh uncertainty for states that had already decided to cancel exams.

In this context, we are reiterating the reasons why many teachers and institutions had argued for cancelling the exams and declaring results based on previous performance.

The recommendation to cancel exams was prompted by an unprecedented health emergency, not by doubts about the value of examinations. When faced with such an emergency, cancelling exams has two main advantages: First, it avoids the extended uncertainty created by repeated (but unavoidable) postponements. Second, it protects the integrity of the examination by refusing to abandon its two most basic features – impartiality, or equal treatment of all examinees; and close supervision to prevent cheating.

Given the realities facing the overwhelming majority of our students and institutions, examinations held in the “online” or “mixed” modes will be biased because they will favour students with better access to the internet and work against students whose access is precarious. Moreover, when there is no viable method of ensuring proper invigilation of online exams, calling them “open book” is an attempt to rename a failing as a virtue.

Cancelling exams during a pandemic is sensible and fair precisely because examinations are important and must not be devalued. It is to be expected that the uncertainties of a pandemic situation will create the genuine need for repeated postponements. Using alternative methods of evaluation based on each student’s own past performance (in exams conducted in normal times) offers a fair solution and brings closure, with the option of retaking the exam when normalcy is restored.

Those who argue that cancelling exams will devalue degrees must explain how holding a farcical “virtual” exam that lacks the basic features of the real thing will enhance their value.

We appeal to the UGC to reconsider its advisory and protect the interests of students and the integrity of examinations by ending uncertainty and cancelling exams for final semester/year cohorts.

Signatories: Prof. Sukhadeo Thorat, former Chairperson, UGC, and the following teachers:

Leena Abraham TISS, Mumbai
Apoorvanand University of Delhi
Yasmeen Arif University of Delhi
Madhulika Banerjee University of Delhi
Uma Bhrugubanda EFLU, Hyderabad
Bhangya Bhukya University of Hyderabad
Prasenjit Biswas NEHU, Shillong
Gita Chadha University of Mumbai
Satish Deshpande University of Delhi
Jayati Ghosh JNU, New Delhi
Sasheej Hegde University of Hyderabad
M.T. Joseph University of Mumbai
Ayesha Kidwai JNU, New Delhi
Sunil Kumar University of Delhi
Tila Kumar University of Delhi
Shobhit Mahajan University of Delhi
Rajni Palriwala University of Delhi
Sanjay Palshikar University of Hyderabad
Sujata Patel KJSBP University, Pune
Satish Poduval EFLU, Hyderabad
Madhava Prasad EFLU, Hyderabad
Manisha Rao University of Mumbai
Babu P. Remesh Ambedkar University, Delhi
K. Satyanarayana EFLU, Hyderabad
Ujjwal Kumar Singh University of Delhi
N Sukumar University of Delhi
Nandini Sundar University of Delhi

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