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Alternative modes to conduct exams during lockdown

Alternative modes to conduct exams during lockdown
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The whole process of examination will be completed by the end of July 2020 and thereafter in the month of August, postgraduation entrance process will ...

The whole process of examination will be completed by the end of July 2020 and thereafter in the month of August, postgraduation entrance process will be initiated. After completion of examinations, answer scripts will be evaluated in off-line mode only to avoid all the processing delays. Before declaration of the results, the concerned university will conduct the practical examinations. As coronavirus is spreading massively despite lockdown and containments zones being declared, it is strongly suggested to conduct exams without opening up hostels due to the threat from Covid-19. As already suggested by the UGC, next upcoming academic session can be started from the month of September. So, it is important to note that, no hostel will be opened at any circumstances, due to the existing vulnerable conditions in the State

During this Covid-19 lockdown situation, conducting exams keeping in view of the students' career and their health safety by following lockdown rules is the primary concern of the Education Department. In this regard, the Telangana State Council of Higher Education (TSCHE) held a meeting on May 16 with Osmania University officials to discuss various possible alternative methods to conduct examinations. However, the meeting could not find any possible solution.

On one hand, the University Grants Commission (UGC), the apex regulatory body, gave a clear cut opinion on conducting exams, mode of teaching, next academic calendar, and several others. On the other hand, University of Hyderabad, a Central university located in the State capital, decided to follow a different method i.e., promoting students based on their previous semester marks/grade performance.

At this juncture, in the universities working under the State government regulation, the TSCHE is seriously planning about conducting the exams. Keeping in view of the persisting threat from the coronavirus, strict restrictions have been imposed on all public gatherings such as social, religious, political, and even academic seminars and classes, and hostels are also under restriction. Since the students hailing from across the State, especially rural areas, getting them back to the concerned university for the purpose of writing examinations is difficult and not at all feasible.

In this context, conducting exams without opening up hostels is the only method to avoid the threat from the spread of the Covid-19. Hence, now it is the time to conduct exams at various places by identifying schools and colleges as examination centres at every mandal and district headquarters so that the students may get a chance to choose their exam centre near to their home. All the government officials at the local level need to extend their support in order to smooth functioning of the examination process.

As we follow almost same syllabus for under-graduation BA, B Com and B Sc, same question paper may be utilised for all universities in the State. The question papers will be prepared and sent to the concerned exam centre on the same day of the examination 15 minutes before the commencement of examination through e-mail/ WhatsApp / website of the concerned university. In compliance with the UGC recommendations, in its recent report (dated: 06.04.2020), the time and pattern need to be followed while preparing question paper and conducting examinations.

Major changes recommended by the UGC for exams are time pattern i.e., reducing exam time from three hours to two hours without compromising the quality. The pattern prescribed for exam should be MCQs/OMR based, Open Book examination, open choices, assignment / presentation-based assessments etc. However, the UGC has given freedom to the universities to adopt any efficient innovative method in conducting exams by following physical distancing. The primary concern of the UGC is to maintain the sanctity to evaluate the performance of the students.

The whole process of examination will be completed by the end of July 2020 and thereafter in the month of August, postgraduation entrance process will be initiated. After completion of examinations, answer scripts will be evaluated in off-line mode only to avoid all the processing delays. Before declaration of the results, the concerned university will conduct the practical examinations. As coronavirus is spreading massively (reached 3rd stage), despite lockdown (4th phase) and containments zones being declared, it is strongly suggested to conduct exams without opening up hostels due to the threat from Covid-19. As already suggested by the UGC, next upcoming academic session can be started from month of September. So, it is important to note that, no hostel will be opened at any circumstances, due to the existing vulnerable conditions in the State.

The whole process of examinations will be supervised and monitored by the State TSCHE, in coordination with the district authorities such as District Collector, Superintendent of Police, DHMO, Municipal Commissioners, District Educational Officer (DEO) and Mandal Educational Officer (MEO) including Revenue department, in consultation with the concerned university. Chief Superintendent would be the responsible person to supervise the process of examination in the concerned exam centre, receive question papers and handover the answer sheets to the concerned authorities. Health check-ups/thermal screening and other main standard Covid-19 protocol may be entrusted by the concerned Health and Sanitation Department. Finally, the police department need to provide necessary security and safety for the smooth functioning of the examination process.

While selecting examination centres, physical distance and sanitation, availability computers, internet etc, facilities must be ensured by the authorities. A list of the examination centres will be prepared and shared with TSCHE and all universities across the State. Concerned university should release a separate notification for the purpose of choosing examination centres by the students. The same centre name and code will be given in their hall tickets. Students should be allowed to choose their examination centre near to their home in and around 10 km.

Respective principals and gazetted headmasters should be considered as chief superintendent of the examination centre. The chief superintendent of the concerned centre will be responsible for all arrangements and maintenance of smooth functioning of examination process with the help of local, mandal and district authorities.

Question papers should be forwarded to the chief superintendent through online on the same day of examination (15 minutes before exam time). Some universities in the State are following the off-line method of sending questioners, in this regard question papers may be deposited at least two to three days before the examinations in the local police station or MRO office. The Same will be collected by the chief superintendent of concerned centre on the day of examination.

Answer sheets should be reached the examination centres one week before the examinations. Answer booklets will be handed over immediately after the examination to the concerned authorities through proper channel i.e., local MRO, police or District Collector to the concerned university. After successful completion of all the examinations, concerned university will announce the date for conducting practical exams before releasing the final results.

In the process of conducting examinations, the TSCHE should be the coordinating body for supervising the whole examination process. The local authorities including the District Collector, Superintendent of Police, Municipal Commissioners, DHMO, District Educational Officer, Mandal Revenue Officer, Mandal Educational Officer and Sanitation, Health Department etc., need to come together to complete the process.

(The writer is Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Osmania University, Hyderabad)

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