The exam dilemma: UGC & State Governments at loggerheads

NewsBharati    16-Jul-2020   
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With the University Grants Commission (UGC), the umbrella body of all the universities in the country coming out with fresh guidelines regarding holding final year university examinations, the controversy over conducting examinations has once again surfaced.
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The UGC’s latest guidelines specified that universities must conduct the final year examinations by the end of September this year. Usually, the final year exams are scheduled to be held in April-May-June. But this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic threat these could not be conducted.
On the other hand, certain state governments like the most progressive Maharashtra, and Delhi has come up with a suggestion to cancel the exams and promote the students to the next level on the basis of the assessment of their past performance. The agriculture university in Maharashtra had even gone a step further and issued mark sheets to the final year students bearing a stamp “Covid-19 Promoted”.
UGC, in the latest circular, asked the universities to conduct exams of the final year students. The mode of the examinations is flexible but the cancellation of the exam will not be permitted in any circumstances, the UGC clarified.
In the recent past, when this issue of holding final year examination came up, states like Maharashtra took the lead in demanding to scrap of the exams. The state the government first asked the state universities to cancel the routine annual/final semester exams without consulting the Governor who is the Chancellor of the state universities.
When the Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari raised an eyebrow, the Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut immediately rushed to him and bowed at his feet in an attempt of reconciliation. The Higher Education Minister Uday Samant had to tender an apology and give an explanation that they did not mean to undermine the Governor.
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All said and done, when the UGC guideline came, Samant was the first Education Minister to register his opposition and announce that Maharashtra Government would not allow the universities to hold the exams. Even the Tourism Minister and the novice in politics Aditya Thackeray jumped in the fray demanding to scrap of examination on the pretext of saving the lives of thousands of students who would otherwise be exposed to the COVID-19 virus once ‘forced’ to appear for the exams.
How ridiculous?
Final year university exam has its own importance for every student. The result of that exam is responsible for shaping the future of these students. But once they are just ‘Covid-19 Promoted’ their future ends there. Will they be able to secure admissions to the higher courses, or qualify for the competitive exams and/or take up jobs at various establishments?
The simple answer is NO.
During the early 1970s, there was an incident of mass copying at one of the examination centers under the Nagpur University. The then Vice-Chancellor Dr. V B Kolte had canceled the entire final year examination and a re-examination was held within a month. The students were issued the mark sheets with a stamp ‘Re-Examination’. During those days and even after some years of these exams, the employment advertisements used to carry a line that stated: “Students from Nagpur University need not apply”.
What fate will await to these “COVID-9 Promoted” students?
We are at a loss to understand the rationale behind the demand for cancellation of the final year examination. What logic pervades the thinking of the people in government to reach such a decision which will obviously destroy the future career of the thousands of students. Who gave them the right to play with the lives of these students in the name of furthering their political agenda?
As the Centre has said it is important that the final year students be evaluated via an exam for the long-term interest of the students. The UGC is a statutory body governing the functioning of all the universities in the country. As such, its directives are binding on them. And the MHRD has also endorsed this. An official of MHRD had said that the UGC guidelines to conduct the examinations are mandatory to all the universities and will take precedence over the decision of the states to cancel the exams.
Six states including Maharashtra and Delhi have expressed their opposition to the UGC’s decision and urged the MHRD to reconsider the move in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is true that Maharashtra and Delhi are the worst affected states. But who is responsible for this? It is only the ruling dispensations that should be blamed for this deterioration on the Coronavirus front. There is no coordination, no cooperation, and no cohesion among the ministers, and the officers are left to make their own decisions as they please.
The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) a premier students’ organization of India has supported the UGC decision. The safety of students is one of the major concerns but that can be taken care of with proper arrangements. But canceling the exams cannot be the only alternative remedy for it.
The ABVP has demanded the Maharashtra government to withdraw its decision of not holding the final year university exams in the state. The decision is not in accordance with the Maharashtra Universities Act, the ABVP said in a statement.
With confusion ruling the roost over final year examinations, students and parents were worried over their future. It would be in the interest of the students and parents and also the country that the states adhere to the UGC guidelines and find out ways to conduct the final year examination to save the future and the career of the students.