Online exams in DU: Ready for reality?

first_imgIndia leads the world in a lot of indices, and interestingly, not all of them are detrimental. With 504 million customers, India has the second-highest internet users in the world. A pretty large number, huh? But what percentage does it constitute of India’s total population? Only around 50%. And how many households does this huge figure cover? As per the National Sample Survey report on Education (2017-2018), it is barely 27% of India’s total. In such a scenario, are we ready for an online exam especially, in an institute like Delhi University with students from various economic and social backgrounds, religions, and regions?Isn’t it right to throw all those unprivileged kids under the bus during this ongoing pandemic?According to a recent survey conducted by Delhi University Teacher’s Association (DUTA), 85% of the DU’s students are not in a position for an online Open-Book Examination. It includes a large number of whom are from SC, ST, OBC, and economically weaker backgrounds, and are from different parts of the country. Out of those 51,453 respondents, 11.9% received no study materials during the lockdown. 38.1% had no access to them at all because of reasons like having no laptops, owning a single smartphone in the entire family, 2G internet connection, or no connection at all.Although the ambitious Saubhagya scheme ensures power connection to 99.9% of the homes, the reality is far less luminous than the plan if we look at the quality of electricity and the number of hours for which it is available every day. Mission Antyodaya (2017-18) has revealed that hardly 47% of Indian households receive power supply for more than 12 hours a day. A blackout occurs mostly because of the gap between the demand and supply of electricity. During peak hours, to suffice the chief municipalities, supply has to be cut in the backward areas and settlements. During long and frequent power-cuts, students are not able to charge their phones, which at most times, is the single electronic device in a family of five or six. So, the foremost sufferers are those poverty-stricken families who aspire for something bigger and better but get restricted by their resources.This lockdown also manifests the fact that there is a clear-cut distinction between in-general access to internet and internet access at home. Over 66% of the Indian population resides in rural areas, but only a little over 24% have access to internet services. For urban areas, this number increases to 43%, but it still leaves a lot of the young students in the lurch. The discrepancies do not end here. Internet penetration varies from 69% in Delhi and 54% in Kerala to 38% in U.P and 21% in Bihar. The gender disparity in terms of internet accessibility is stark: 33% of internet users are female, and the difference is even deeper when it comes to rural areas. A report by the Quacquarelli Symonds on the usage of the internet shows that even broadband connection in India is not good enough. Over 3% face cable cuts, 53% face poor connectivity and 32% face signal issues. Is this online exam even worth the stress that it’s going to put on us in the coming months? Because there may be a certain percentage of students who perceive this lockdown as an opportunity to hone their skills, read more, spend some quality time with family and friends but there is also a large proportion of students out there whose parents have lost their jobs or are stuck in some other part of the country or have family members suffering from this fatal virus.Smartphones can be convenient for various apps and attending online classes but not for carrying out lengthy assignments or research. The fact that only 11% of Indians own computers- laptops, tablets, palmtops reveals the glaring differences that may exist between two college classmates.In such a situation, exams seem doubtful when there are significant gaps in digital learning. Besides the connectivity issues, online interaction between students and their teachers looks like a challenge. One-to-one communication is essential for both teachers and their students. It mostly depends on the acceptability of this new platform and the readiness of both parties. It is harsh of the authorities to make a sacrificial lamb out of the traditional teachers who may be technologically-challenged to tutor online. Has DU been thoughtful enough to issue directives on how to teach online, and what platforms to use for that? It has not been bothered to provide any precautionary measures to ensure that the students and teachers don’t fall prey to cybercrime during these online lessons. As an inevitable result of such loopholes in the decisions, there were several cases reported where teachers claimed to have faced harassment during web classes sometimes by their students and sometimes even by outside intruders.An online course ideally requires devising lesson plans, and preparation of teaching materials, which is an arduous task, without any framework or broad outlines, to begin with. So is the case with the learning process- learning demands a conducive environment for studying, and we have to keep it in mind that not all of us have a quiet space for that at home. Reports indicate that 37% of the houses in India are 1-dwelling households. Regular online classes have their costs for both teachers and students, and its affordability continues to be a big question in a developing country like India. The recent cutback in the budget for digital learning from ₹604 to ₹469 crores in the fiscal year 2020-21.The 25-point-OBE plan released on Saturday by the Dean of Examinations Vinay Gupta assured that the students would be allowed to use the ICT resources available with the CSC (Common Service Centre) academy for downloading and taking the print, scanning, and uploading of answer sheets free of cost. As per DU, there are more than 2 lakh functional CSCs located at almost all gram panchayats across the country. But the teachers and students called this circular- confusing and a mockery of the examination process. It leaves a lot of loose ends. It does not give specific instructions to take any precautions to ensure that CSCs do not get overcrowded. Are these CSC’s safe and sanitized in line with the guidelines of GOI? DU has also decided to wash its hands of specially challenged students just by allotting two extra hours to them. The fact that the website crashes as soon as results are out or forms are uploaded puts a big question mark on how successful these online exams would be.This inconsiderate behaviour meted out by DU has invited RTI, petitions, letters to the administration,  protests on twitter, etc. Although the university has turned deaf ears to the solidarity shown by the students and teachers together, we must not stop until we get there because when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.last_img read more