“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
The importance of education is paramount, no second thoughts about that. All the great leaders, thinkers and activists always stressed on getting everyone educated not just by books, but by practical learning, by ethics, by morality, and by sheer determination. Teachers are considered as second parents and educational institutes as a second home in our Indian culture but were it to be believed only during normal times?
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the world to its knees. All around the world the cases have been rising rapidly. At the time of writing this article, the cases have surpassed 1.8 lakh mark with everyday setting a new high of active cases. During these unprecedented times, when the lives are in grave danger, are examinations really necessary? This article is not about criticizing the Government. Instead, the Government has done well in the recent weeks to control the cases and have taken preventive measures but at the time when India’s cases are rising faster than any other country when India is in the top 10 countries with most Covid-19 cases in the country, are examinations worth it?
The Government announced that schools, colleges, universities, places of worship, shopping malls, multiplex, etc. would resume in a phase-wise plan but is it necessary? There would be no restrictions on the intra and interstate movements except for the contaminated zones but this again poses a serious threat to the safety of the citizens.
Coming back to the primary point, why are examinations held? It is held to check the knowledge of the students, their grasp on the subject which has been taught to them by the teachers. But due to the sudden shut down of the country, the syllabus is not completed in many colleges and universities. Now not many of us are privileged. Most of the students in Odisha come from rural areas and they solely depend on the teachings provided in the classroom. They cannot afford to study via the internet as that would require a good data pack and at times when food is scarce, studying via the internet would not be a priority.
The UGC took a big decision when they said that they would scrap the 2nd and the 4th semester and the marks would be adjusted according to the norms provided by them but what about students in the final semester? What about their rights? The courses aren’t completed, the number of Covid-19 cases is on the rise and many colleges have already released a notice that they would be conducting the final semester exams in the traditional pen and paper mode. They said that necessary arrangements would be made like the students would be called batch-wise, they would be seated in a room but with safe distance, the hostels would be sanitized and other protocols would be followed, but why go such lengths? Wouldn’t it be a cumbersome task?
The biggest concern for conducting the examinations is the risk of spreading the Covid-19. Many students are living in different places in India. When the exams would be held, they would have to travel via bus, train, or flight and there is always a chance of catching the virus during the travel. Also, many student’s relatives or family members are suffering from the Covid-19, some even lost their close ones, will they be in a state to appear for the examinations? The psychological aspect is always forgone in India because people consider mental illness as a joke. This would have serious implications for the youth of India. The students who stay in contaminated zones, they would also come to give exams, and since Covid-19 takes time to show symptoms or sometimes don’t even show any symptoms, the student might be contaminated and further put the lives of all the students appearing for the examination, along with their families at huge risk. This would not only induce further contamination by the virus but also put the lives of the elder people at risk.
Universities and colleges could shift to the online mode of education but India not being as developed as the European nations, it is next to impossible. Most of the students come from rural areas with no access to the internet or minimal access. Moreover not all the educational institutes have the necessary infrastructure to conduct the same.
It is a generalized opinion stating that it is not feasible to risk the lives of all the people engaged in the conduct of examinations. Moreover, even the syllabus is not completed, materials aren’t properly provided, knowledge is not spread, and in such times examinations will lose its value. Just like the 2nd and 4th-semester exams have been scrapped and adjusted, why can’t the 6th or the 8th semester be adjusted the same way? Why is giving an examination so important while the knowledge gained from that examination is minimal? These are questions of national importance. Many students are using social media such as twitter, to raise their voices, to ask the authorities to review their decisions. Colleges like IIT Bombay, IIT Kanpur, etc. have already decided to scrap the semester examinations. When institutes of such caliber can cancel the examinations, we should rethink the decision and find a more feasible solution to it.
As a matter of fact, many colleges and varsities still don’t have a Students Grievance Cell. The UGC had strictly directed that by 30th May 2020, all the colleges and varsities should have a cell to understand the problems of the students and help the students but unfortunately, most of the institutes failed to abide by the guidelines. The decisions should be taken after consulting the final year students too.
The lives of millions of people are at stake now. The students who are considered as the pillars of the nation are going to be affected the most. Knowledge is more important than examinations and not the other way round. The decisions to be taken should be taken keeping in mind that there is yet no vaccine for the virus and India is the second-most populous country. During the lockdown, if the cases kept on rising rapidly, think about what will happen when the relaxations are given.
To sum up, the lives of people are more important than mere examinations.