It has been more than a year since the digital dimension took over. We were about to resume our previous normal lives when the pandemic decided to intervene, again. In June 2021 alone, decisions of conducting the end-semester examinations of the universities in online mode, as well as the cancellation of class 12 board examinations in schools, were executed. Are the resultant grades going to be equivalent to offline marks in the eyes of history?
Since the onset of the Corona pandemic, educational institutes have been experimenting with different modes of online examinations. Initially, it was expected that the Covid crisis would end soon; hence most of the schools and universities opted for assignment-based tests and provided relaxation to the students, who comprised the ‘mentally distressed population’ due to the sudden digitalization of life. Later when the fog of doubts started to clear, it became obvious that the disease is not going to leave anytime soon.
Worried about the future of the Covid Batches, the academic administrations realized the need of having ‘proper mode assessments’ to return to the original grading systems which will, in hindsight as they considered it, carry the ‘same’ weightage as the marks obtained in offline papers. Hence came the evolutionary idea of proctored online examinations. According to a survey conducted in 2021 by Learning Spiral, an online examination solution provider, over 50 percent of Indian students, including those from urban areas, do not have access to the internet for online studies. The ones whom they call “our children” were given the ultimatum to either appear in proctored online exams or bear the unfortunate consequences. Central universities, who are often seen boasting about their ‘diverse student body’, witnessed widespread agitation against this decision. Some gave in, implementing ‘better’ methods like Open-Book Exams or Viva Assessments; while others resumed with the initial solution.
While it is agreeable that talent matters more than the degree, the present portals demand the submission of the average aggregate marks secured by students at the end of the course. During the ongoing pandemic, examiners are either too considerate or too skeptical – the balance of “fair marking” is disturbed now more than ever before.
Class 12 board exams are the gateway to admissions to many Indian universities, especially for non-professional courses. In 2020, even those institutes that otherwise conduct entrance tests were obliged to go with a merit-based admission system. However, 2021 didn’t even get the chance to witness the examination entirely. Certain methods have indeed been adopted for the evaluation of marks, but can we ignore the fact that grading systems in different schools differ a lot from each other? Some prefer to encourage students with lenient marking, others opt for strict evaluation to drive the pupils to work harder. An interesting fact is that schools, usually in internal assessments and practical exams, gift their students with good marks as an effort to uplift their percentage in the board exams. Today, the scope for such generosity is the whole mark sheet. And what if the school exercises favouritism generosity? Probable? Yes. Definite? Well…
Meanwhile, final year university students are midway through their terminal semester exams in online mode. How much weightage will their CGPA have in their upcoming endeavours? Would OBE exams have less preferment over Viva and Proctored assessments? What about those who were not able to appear for the same?
The deadly second wave of Coronavirus in India wiped out whole families. Students not only lost their immediate family members but also their teachers. The wave has died down by a little margin for now, and already there’s a looming danger of a third one. Along with the physical pandemic, a grim mental health crisis has plagued India. We are swamped by the lurking fear of the upcoming third wave, inconsiderate academic pressure and uncertainty of the future. Despite the grave situation, the majority of the educational institutions did not give any type of relaxation – neither to the students nor to the staff. “We are one family,” aren’t we?
In deciding whether our pandemic grades deserve the required importance or not, one can hope that the inconsiderate nature of the system will be taken into account. While it can be argued that certain students are benefitting from the “relaxed norms”, it cannot be disregarded that there is no one, not one student who wasn’t affected by this deadly crisis. Hence, we pray for sound and just judgements, and not the repetition of our loud relatives: “Beta online exam hai, kya tension hai?”
Zaina Shahid Khan is a student pursuing English Honours from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Diptarka Chatterjee
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.