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

The court asked the UGC to explain the import of April guidelines on July guidelines and has listed the matter for further hearing on 24 July.

FP Staff July 22, 2020 17:14:07 IST
Delhi OBE exams case: Can final year exams be based on MCQ, assignments, HC asks UGC to clarify

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

The court was hearing a plea challenging Delhi University's decision to hold Open Book Examination for final year students. The question came up after the Delhi University contended that it that they were holding online OBE exams only because the UGC guidelines make it mandatory to hold final year examinations.

The UGC, however, stated that they "never asked DU to delay their exams." "Whether DU wants to conduct online or offline mode, or whether they can take exams in form of MCQ is up to them. We can't answer," Bar & Bench quoted the UGC's counsel as saying.

A single judge bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh, asked UGC to explain the options available to assess the performance of final year students, after a bunch of petitioners challenged the Delhi University's proposed solution to hold online OBE.

The UGC, in the April, had stated: "Maintaining the sanctity of academic expectations and integrity of examination process, the universities may adopt alternative and simplified modes and methods of examinations to complete the process in shorter period of time... These may include MCQ/ OMR based examinations, Open Book Examination, Open Choices, assignment/ presentation-based assessments etc."

However, in a fresh notification issued in July, it stated that internal evaluation cannot be a valid form of assessment for final year students, and that universities must conduct final year exams before 30 September.

The court asked the UGC to explain the import of April guidelines on July guidelines. The high court listed the matter for further hearing on 24 July.

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. It clarified that when it said that exams can be held online, it always meant that they should be timed.

"We're clear that internal assessment can't be accepted as a mode of evaluation for final year students. The sanctity of exams will come into question in 'take home assignment' mode for conducting exams and we're worried about the possibility of cheating in this mode," Live Law quoted UGC's submissions to the court.

The court, however, contended that the UGC cannot operate under the assumption that a majority of students will cheat.

"You can't make a general assumption that majority of students are going to cheat in 'take home assignment' mode of assessment," the bench said, according to Live Law

The court also objected to the methodology and preparedness in place for DU's OBE exams, saying that the varsity's version of timed OBE examinations online can be a nightmare for students.

"It is completely impractical to have timed examination. We live in the heart of Delhi and there was no electricity or connectivity for hours due to the rain. Imagine the number of writ petitions that are going to come here due to number of reasons after OBE in August. DU will be struggling with it for years.. I think adminstration has collapsed and students are suffering," Justice Singh was quoted as saying by Bar & Bench.

The Delhi University responded by saying that students do not need internet continuously. "You just need it to download and upload. We are working day and night. There is no other way," DU told the bench.

The bench also noted that the DU's official notification specified that students must have 4G internet to take the OBE exam. The counsel for DU, however, underplayed it stating, "that is not needed, 3G will also do."

"Kashmir doesn't have 3G. There are floods in Assam. What is the penetration of 3G in India," the bench contended, noting that "unlike universities cross the world, DU has not been helping its students."

The court has now asked UGC to consider and clarify whether the options of MCQ, assignments, presentation etc listed in its April guidleines are also available to final year students.

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