Now that the online examinations are over, I feel a great urge to state a few arguments expressly for the students to read.
It is common knowledge that through distance all the examinations have been open book. All the students have been at home in different cities and able to consult books, elders and perhaps even found means of discussing with some classmates while answering the questions. On top of that, it was also assumed that some underprivileged students might have had difficulty accessing study materials so the paper should be shortened. Since the colleges closed in the middle of March maybe half of the course was left untaught by many teachers who themselves had little understanding that the lockdown as well as the unlock would not be only for a short while.
Many hostellers who left in a hurry did not carry along their books and notes. Many students were happy that they would not have to attend regular classes. There are always students in the world who are self motivated and prefer their own pace of studies. But then, there were also many students who did not feel confident enough to study on their own. There were also some others who were extremely upset about the uncertainty that loomed over their career plans.
Without doubt, the authorities ensured that no one’s year is wasted. It has only been delayed and soon with new admissions, the new session will take off. I have even heard that students who wished to go to far-off places for higher education did take admission through some online arrangements.
I felt saddened by two things: There are students who preferred to be declared pass without having to appear for any examination, in station or remote. The other thing that saddened me was the complaint of students about writing out the ‘lengthy’ paper.
Examinations, like stage performances, are the tough test through which you can prove that you have learned it all. A dance performance becomes successful only when you have practised dancing, not if you have watched a teacher dance. Similarly, studies become your strength only if you have read the books and much more stuff.
It is wrong for a student to blame the absence of lectures for their inability to learn a skill. By diligent reading, most people can learn over time. With the help of a teacher, the learning is quicker; one reading is enough where the teacher has accomplished several readings on behalf of the students.
Our ancestors died without tutoring us. They left behind enormous volumes of texts from which to divulge a wealth of knowledge. If a student is thoroughly dependent on his teacher, in a way he is useless. He must add to previously existing knowledge by his own means and then only he can be a productive citizen of the world.
Examinations are the only means of finding out if you have studied, with or without the help of a teacher. There can be no excuse for skipping examinations. It is your stage performance. Even if the books are right in front of you and your elder brother is there to prompt many of the answers, what you have written in the paper is proof that at least once in all these five intervening months you have laid your eyes on the text in front of you or you have heard someone speak out those things that are supposed to go into your head.
The pressure of exams drives the students to study. If there are seven texts in a semester and for five months there has been no teaching, no one in his right mind would pass the student without an examination. We do need to find out if you have tried to learn a few things, if you have the necessary means of accomplishing an understanding of those texts prescribed in that very semester. They were part of your course and without having browsed through them you cannot pass and claim a degree.
My second reaction is towards those students who were crying that their fingers ached in writing out the papers. There were those who complained that it was too lengthy. I said, all you are doing is copying from somewhere, then why crib. The reply was enraging. I surmised that each of the students was writing his paper exactly after receiving the question paper, since no one knew what the questions would be. I assumed that this bit of sincerity was definitely ensured; but the length? What about the length?
Here is what I surmised. Since it was more or less an open book examination, the students had ample material to copy from. In the examination hall they would leave behind a mass of material that they had read during preparation. In the online exam, they included it all. Thus they had the finger-aching length of answers. Many students complained about the time limit and many about the page limit. I was annoyed and snapped at them. I thought about it later. I actually enjoyed the inferences I made. It’s good that they were reading a lot, perhaps a lot more than they could have read by the end of April. It was good that they wrote a lot in the paper. We’ll see.
It was good that the examinations were held and the students who lived in suspense for so many months can now watch a few movies. It is good that all those students who preferred to spend their pocket money on clothes or outing, this time invested in a mobile phone and data pack if nothing more. It is good that in future more and more students who have been annoying their parents about fanciful items would now invest more on studies and that too studying on their own.
We might complain that online teaching is expensive. We have several hostels. I know how much it costs a parent from a remote place to send his ward to a hostel. A mobile or its data pack is much less expensive. From a distance if the student can complete his higher education, it is actually better. The cost of a mobile phone or even a laptop would not be more than the expenditure on travel and mess and boarding and lodging. Gradually, the examination system can be made stricter too.