Circulars have been issued that the University of Delhi will hold online, open-book examinations (OBE). The task force for examinations created by the university decided that 2.5 lakh final year undergraduate and postgraduate students of regular and distance learning institutions would have to sit for OBE, and the main notification regarding it came on May 14 stating that OBE must be conducted from July 1st.
With hashtags like “#DUAgainstsOnlineExams” trending on Twitter, we must question the authorities’ concern with regards to the education of every student. Is the university concerned about the students coming from the unprivileged background? Is the focus of the system on the growth and development of students or is it to merely pass/fail them. The recent decisions taken under the light speak for itself.
Delhi University is a dream for every Indian student, especially for those coming from not so privileged backgrounds because for them, it is the path to their dreams. Around 60% of students in DU come from different parts of India, who went to their hometown during the mid-semester break, not knowing these holidays would last so long. The majority of them didn’t carry their books, and the news of online OBE made the situation worse.
The biggest worry with OBE is access to computers/laptops. A lot of students come from rural backgrounds with not much access to technology; for them taking an OBE is very difficult. The requirements are not just laptops and computers but also a reliable internet connection to download the question paper and a scanner to upload the answer sheet. For students coming from northeastern parts of India where stable internet services are not available, taking online examination becomes a significant problem.
A St. Stephen’s College teacher said, “Many of my students from the Northeast and parts of UP couldn’t attend online classes even once. They weren’t able to download reading materials due to connectivity problems.” Thousands of villages in India experience power cuts daily. The fact left students uncertain if they’d be able to download, complete, and submit their answer sheets timely.
We must also take into account that in the case of online OBE; merit will be a myth. Not every student would get equal resources to study and take the exam. A lot of students would have to give the exam in an inappropriate and uncomfortable environment of the household, not helping them with the right space of mind. The advantage would lie with those having better access to e-resources, internet facilities, and better infrastructure.
Writing an exam sitting in an air-conditioned bedroom would be very different from writing an exam sitting on the floor of your kaccha house with sweat running down your face.
According to a survey conducted by us at DU Express which had more than 12,000 respondents, 85% of students were against online exams. 76% of students said that they don’t study material available for exams while 76.2% of students feel that the study material shared by teachers hasn’t helped to understand the syllabus fully.
The survey can be accessed here