The pandemic has created a major crisis in various sectors and fields across the world. The global economy is at an all-time low, businesses are closing, and people are being laid off. On the one side, the working community have been severely hit, with the high unemployment and the pay cuts and on the other side, the student community, the so-called future of the country, has been pushed to the corner.
Now, with President Trump’s latest order for all the foreign students studying in the USA, a big chunk of the Indian student community is at crossroads. While there is the undue pressure on the youth of today to lead the world and correct the mistakes made by the previous generations, there is also the absolute clueless state of affairs of the Universities in the decision making part of it.
Amidst the multiplicity of bodies, political tensions, and administrative laxity, the students are being tossed around like a ping-pong ball.
The lockdown was declared on March 24, post which all the universities were mandatorily shut. The last week of March and beginning of April marks the completion of 3/4 of the semester in most colleges and universities. For some universities, it is the last month of the semester, with just the end semester exams remaining. The lockdown led to a prevailing sense of unsurety for all the students of the graduating batch of 2020.
For many students, studying far away from their homes, they knew they could make no plans; they were just waiting for the university administrations to take a decision for them. The decisions were taken, not one, but many.
By the time one notice was deciphered, another body stepped in to either interject or cancel the previous order. Let us take a look at the timeline of the various orders, by the various bodies. With multiple orders by various governing bodies, keeping a track of the happenings is difficult. But, nevertheless, here are a few orders and dates from April.
On April 27, the University Grants Commission or UGC, the higher education regulator, released an order. The guidelines had details of the new academic calendar for the universities and colleges as well as the dates for the annual examination for the graduating year students; the intermediate semester students were to be graded based on internal assessment of the present and previous semester while the exams for the terminal semester students will be held in the month of July. Additionally, the UGC gave the universities the option to choose the mode of examination and also mandated that an option for an offline mode of the exam be given to the students who wished.
The Bar Council of India, on May 27, passed a resolution to put a hold to the online examination option as per the UGC order, dated 27/04/20. The law schools were directed to find alternatives to those students who cannot attempt the examination online. Additionally, as per the resolution, the intermediate year students are to have their exams conducted within one month of the new academic year.
On May 30, the Maharashtra Chief Minister along with various Vice-Chancellors across the state unanimously decided to cancel the final semester examinations for the graduating year students. This was keeping in mind the growing cases across the state. The student’s final semester results were to be calculated on the average of the previous years/semesters. However, the state gave the options to those students who wished to appear for their exams offline, sometime in the months of September or later, depending on the Covid-19 situation.
The Maharashtra state government on June 19th made another announcement. Keeping in mind the Pandemic situation in Maharashtra, all non-professional traditional courses, final examinations were made optional. For those who wished to appear for the exams, a special schedule would be prepared, after the Covid-19 crisis, simmers down. This announcement was a huge sign of relief for over 7.3 lakh students enrolled in non-professional courses, across the state. Further, the remaining 2.8 lakh students pursuing professional courses, were asked to seek guidelines from their governing councils, like the (AICTE), Bar Council of India (BCI), Council of Architecture, etc.
On June 24, a UGC committee made a recommendation to the government to cancel all the examinations for the final year students in all the universities and colleges across India. They suggested, that, in the wake of the Covid crisis, the increased burden on the universities to conduct the examination and the students to take these examinations, would cause undue disruptions. Instead, an alternative to evaluating the students based on past performance was suggested. But, the option to appear for the examination at the later stage, once the Covid-19 situation subsides was given.
On July 6, the Ministry of Home Affairs made all examinations for final year students compulsory across India. These examinations are to be conducted by September-end on a mode suitable for the students at the particular college or university. All the procedures and permissions must follow the Standard Operating Procedure approved by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Following the order by the MHA, the Maharashtra Government, Yuva Sena Leader wrote to the Union Minister of Human Resource Development Ramesh Pokhriyal, demanding a cancellation of the order to compulsorily conduct the exams for the final year university students. An online petition making this request was also immediately rolled out.
The Kerala Technological University, on May 22, announced that they would conduct the final semester examinations for all B.Tech and MBA students, in the months of July. On June 29, seeing the deteriorating situation of Covid and the high risk for the students, KTU decided to indefinitely postpone the examinations.
The Delhi University had decided to conduct open book examinations, through their own designed portal, wherein they would get the question papers. The list of guidelines for out of state students was also available. This order was keeping in mind the issues of internet connectivity issues and lack of adequate access to many students. Despite continued requests from the students, the DU still decided to go ahead with the exams, as stated in an order dated June 1st.
The university had decided to conduct ‘Mock Exams’ till July 8, so that the students would get an adequate idea of the format, mode and time required. But during the said ‘Mock Exams” the students faced numerous issues, ranging from, site crashes, wrong question papers, out of syllabus questions, among others.
After the absolute failure of the mock tests, DU has once again issued an order to postpone the exams. The dates and details are yet to be published on the university site. To be honest, all these orders and notifications have been tiring, just writing about it! Now, imagine the stress on the students. Their future lies lost among these notifications, circulars and orders.
Delhi uni. postpones all exams at 36 hours notice.
What an appalling bunch of incompetent uncaring administrators The cruelty to students is unconscionable.
These are not academics, but rodents, feasting on the lives of young Indians. I am ashamed of my alma mater pic.twitter.com/DzmJGfYxnU
— rathin roy (@EmergingRoy) July 8, 2020
In essence, education as a subject is a matter on the Concurrent List of the Constitution of India. This means the powers to take decisions are given to both the central and state governments. But, keeping in mind the Quasi-Federal structure of India, the decision of the centre always supersedes that of the state.
Additionally, there are other bodies like the University Grants Commission, Bar Council of India, All India Council for Technical Education, Medical Council of India, etc. which act as regulatory bodies for all the Institutions across the Country. UGC is the regulatory body for all universities across the country, irrespective of the courses offered. Whereas the BCI and AICTE are special bodies which facilitate professional courses education, like law and engineering.
Now, each body has its own role and power. Yet, they, along with the state and central governments, have been passing orders, issuing guidelines, and making announcements; leaving students utterly confused and stressed, to say the least!
With the excessive delay in the decision making, the confusing orders, the conflict between centre and state, the cluelessness of regulatory bodies and the absolute laxity of university administrations, final year students are forced to come to a complete halt. All this until the end of September, even when the current crisis does not seem likely to reduce, even by the decided time.
While on the one hand, we are handed over the torch to carry forward the country, on the other hand, we are treated this way.
Yet, here’s to 2020, the gap year that none of us asked for.