Can final-year exams be based on MCQ, assignments: Delhi HC asks UGC to clarify

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The Delhi High Court Wednesday asked the UGC to clarify that can final-year examinations by the universities be conducted based on Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ), open choices, assignments and presentations, instead of long form exams.

Justice Prathiba M Singh asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) to explain the import of its guidelines issued in April, which mentioned the type of examinations that can be held by a college, for conducting final-year exams.

However, the guidelines issued by the UGC on July 6 mention only about the three modes of conducting examinations—online, offline and blend of both.

The high court, which observed that unlike universities across the world, DU has not been helping its students, listed the matter for further hearing on July 24.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the UGC, assured the high court that there was no divergence internally between HRD Ministry and UGC.

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During the hearing, the UGC submitted that the guidelines do not permit internal assessment for evaluating final year students as it puts credibility of the system at stake.

The high court was hearing a plea challenging Delhi University’s decision to hold Open Book Examination (OBE) for final year undergraduate courses which will be in long form exams.

The Delhi University contended that they were holding online exams as the UGC guidelines make it mandatory to hold final year examinations.

Advocate Akash Sinha, appearing for petitioner Anupam, said he was challenging the manner in which exams are being conducted and sought that there should be an alternative method of exams and OBE is not the only option with the DU as per the UGC guidelines.

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Advocate Apoorv Kurup, also representing the UGC, said there was no option of graduating final year students on the basis of past performance and they have to appear in a timed exam.

“When we say online, we mean timed examination. When people take assignments home, sanctity is not maintained,” he said.

To this, Justice Singh said at the end of the day, the percentage of people who would cheat would be minimal. “People who would cheat, can do so even in hard exams.”

“You cannot presume that students will cheat. Three hours is not enough, from where will students cheat. OBE has so many problems,” the judge said.

When the UGC counsel said DU can undertake a blended form of examination, the judge shot back, “Look at the condition. ICMR says that COVID-19 is going to be at its peak in November. How do you expect them to conduct the offline exam by September?”

The petitioner’s counsel pointed out that many universities have opted for a creative mode of examination, including MCQs and assignment-based exams and the traditional mode is very time taking and OBE is prima facie troublesome.

He submitted that the marksheet of even last semester of Physics department has not been released by the DU yet and it will take a long time to complete the final year exams process.

The high court observed that it failed to understand why UGC was insisting on conducting the final exams and added “imagine the number of writ petitions that are going to come here due to the number of reasons after OBE in August. DU will be struggling with it for years. I think the administration has collapsed and students are suffering. OBE is not going to work”.

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“It is completely impractical to have timed examinations. We live in the heart of Delhi and there was no electricity or connectivity for hours due to the rain. You have to adopt the method for exams which is practical. There is a connectivity issue, the Internet goes, electricity goes in our country. So this proves my point,” the judge said.

To this, senior advocate Sachin Dutta said he will differ with the court and claimed that OBE will be better than MCQ.

“You don’t need the Internet continuously. You just need it to download and upload. We are working day and night. There is no other way,” he said.

He maintained that the Ministry of Human Resource Development asked DU to postpone the exams and he has also said so in an affidavit filed before a division bench of the high court.

When the court said the online exams require a minimum of 4G Internet connectivity, Dutta refuted it and said 3G speed will be fine.

“Your (DU) own FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) on your website says 4G is recommended and 2G speed will not be sufficient,” the court pointed out.

On being asked by the court as to why did the HRD ministry gave a direction to DU to postpone the exams, advocate Sunita Ojha replied that there was a meeting and only an advisory was given to postpone if they were not ready and DU has to examine its own preparedness.

The Delhi University is scheduled to hold final year undergraduate online OBE from August 10-31 and the students who will be left out of online exams will be given an opportunity to appear in physical examinations, to be held sometime in September. —

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