Two UGC recommendations: Online classes and unified test - Are we ready?

April 30, 2020 · blog

The University Grants Commission of India had set up two panels to give recommendations to the government on future actions amidst the COVID-19. In its meeting, conducted on Monday, April 27th, the UGC has mulled over the two recommendations. Although they are to deal with the ongoing situation and to cope with the immediate future after the pandemic, once implemented, they will transform the system in many ways.

One of the panels, headed by the Vice-Chancellor of IGNOU Dr. Nageshwar Rao, has favored ‘adopting online mode for conducting the exams in view of the infrastructure’, reported by the Times of India.

The other panel, headed by RC Kohar, the VC of Haryana Central University, has apparently recommended postponing of academic calendar to the month of September. There are also reports that the panel has recommended ‘a single common admission test each for undergraduate and postgraduate level’. Universities are expected to take cognizance of the test results accordingly.

These two recommendations merit further discussion, as it needs much deeper and broader attention on the whole gamut of other things, which might not be in great shape. It is beyond doubt that the country needs more than a digital revolution to shift its present infrastructure to e-platform. One can read the report, prepared by IGAUGE earlier to understand where we lag.

But it is also a fact that there has to be a beginning somewhere. While discussing the possibilities of online education, we must also remember that ‘attending’ universities still hold prestige in our society; especially ‘Distance education’ is a pejorative term, unlike most Western countries. In that case, the pioneer governmental institutions must take the lead, not just because they have the infrastructural capacity, but also to make the idea more acceptable. Even then, switching online at a go might not be possible for a country like India.

The second point, on the single test for all the universities, is indeed a respite for students. Else, many would have found it difficult to reach the examination center on multiple days, as students prefer to explore their chances and options of career. If a single test is considered by different universities, this would also make the competition fairer. France has had a long tradition of the aggregate test systems for many subjects.

If these tests are held as the ultimate criteria for admission, this would also help students from state boards to apply for better colleges, especially those state boards who are known for following conservative marking than Central boards. Colleges affiliated to Delhi University is notorious for admitting students with high cut off, although that alone does not stand as a criterion.

But this alone cannot make the practice and application procedure fairer. Universities like JNU followed a pointer system called deprivation point-which this government adamantly removed- to allow people from unprivileged backgrounds and remote areas to access the top university. With the singular marking system, there should also be other social measures one needs to keep in mind; else the ongoing apartheid in the Indian education system will grow further.  

Moreover, it might not be a cakewalk to adopt a single marking system in a country like India with such immense educational and socio-cultural diversity. If we are to follow the method practiced by Engineering and Medical admission, we must also think of a unified syllabus for all other subjects across boards.  This is indeed possible but needs considerations and discussions at a much deeper level.

This article is compiled by QS IGAUGE.

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