Restoring the Integrity of Examinations

Till date nobody takes the responsibility for destroying the sanctity of these exams and nobody was investigated or penalized

Dr Muhmmad Amin Malik
Srinagar, Publish Date: Aug 20 2017 11:16PM | Updated Date: Aug 20 2017 11:16PM
Restoring the Integrity of ExaminationsFile Photo

In May 2016, when I was posted at Amar Singh College, one day a student came rushing to meet me, as if I could solve all his problems. Dressed in worn-out ripped clothes with torn shoes, he looked sad and restless. Hailing from a poor family of a remote village of district Budgam, he was one of the brilliant students in BSc 3rd year, the previous year. He showed me some documents where from I concluded that he was declared failed in all 4-subjects in 3rd year and after re-evaluation he cleared 3-subjects with big margins, while in the 4th subject (physics) he obtained Xerox-copy of his answer script through RTI, as he had not obtained required marks to be eligible for its re-evaluation. The saddest thing was that, the clerks had added his marks wrongly otherwise he was eligible for re-evaluation in this subject also. On the sidelines, astonishingly, this orphan student had passed the much difficult university entrance examination in physics, was craving to join Kashmir University for MSc course. For him, it was really impossible to come out of the quagmire of an inefficient and corrupt system and retain the MSc seat. I provided him some guidance but this incident brought tears in my eyes and left me highly dejected.

Our examination system is in a horrendous mess. It has been continuously making headlines in the media, all for bad reasons. Poor evaluation of answer scripts, failing of all the students, framing out-of-syllabus question papers; are the new problems in the already ailing system. Even when the university authorities on every student-protest say that they will redress the grievances of students, this is not the solution to the problems. Nobody is ready to accept the recurring incidence of omissions and commissions. The mismanagement, casual and non-serious approach in the evaluation and paper-setting is jeopardizing the future of innocent students. Just a few days back the students held protests and boycotted exams when their question papers were out-of-syllabus. In March, the students staged protests against the poor evaluation of English paper when out of hundreds of students barely a few managed to pass. During this period I received lots of phone calls from students of various colleges, alleging that they did fairly well in exams, how come they have obtained very less marks/failed in various subjects.

 

A friend, who is a civil servant, came straightway to meet me as his brilliant son had failed in English. He was very perturbed and never accepted that his son could fail in the subject. He met the principal and other concerned official’s at  Amar Singh college and inquired the process of evaluation done at the examination  center but didn’t get any positive response from any quarters. He finally applied for re-evaluation at Kashmir University. When re-evaluation was carried out, it added his son a whopping 50 marks out of 150. This is not just a one-off incident. In fact there are so many cases where re-evaluation added more than 50 marks. This depicts the hotchpotch way the evaluation being carried out once the examinations are over, to boast that results were declared in record time. The insensitivity and callous attitude has reached to the pathetic level and nobody seems to be bothered. Till date nobody takes the responsibility for destroying the sanctity of these exams and nobody was investigated or penalized.

These issues surfaced as no serious monitoring or foolproof system was made by the university to conduct the evaluation. Reportedly, the answer scripts were directly dispatched by the examination coordinators to the contractual lectures and there was no round-table evaluation. The matter was hushed up and no action was taken against any person. In a separate case this year, we saw employs of a reputed college secretly managing to smuggle the answer scripts outside the strong-room, for making changes. We should accept the fact that at the college level there is a section of people who are not interested to teach and they often remain on a look out for non-teaching assignments, lobbying with pliable principals for obtaining such jobs like examination coordinators where they can mint money, knowing that it is extremely difficult to handle an evaluation center. The question arises why college teachers whose primary job is to teach, should be engaged with a full-fledged job of handling evaluation centers. Isn’t this the primary job of the university? For any wrongdoing, only university will be held responsible.

Few years back, we used to have round-table evaluation centers at MA Road colleges where evaluators were given 25-answer scripts in the first half and remaining 25-scripts in the next half of the day and all examiners were available in a hall face-to-face. The head examiners used to guide evaluators and check 20% of their scripts. The answer scripts were coded and almost all other formalities were being carried out seriously. Now, everything has changed. The examination centers created at the districts by the university was a good step towards decentralizing the process of evaluation but these centers exist only in air. The answer scripts of the colleges remain within the district and its information along with that of evaluators can easily be tracked by students. The senior teachers are not being invited for evaluation. They allege that university has ignored them even in paper-setting and re-evaluation, as people at the helm of affairs invite their acquaintances. The remuneration per script continues to be Rs10-15/= for the last 10-years when the university has increased its fee structure. The job has become uninteresting and boring. 

The universities outside are adopting novel concepts like online, computerized and open-book examinations and we are stuck with the old system. The university must improve upon their deficiencies and introduce serious measures. They must reform the evaluation, paper-setting process, adopt the practice of round-table evaluation and make re-evaluation quick and student-friendly, to allow the brilliant students to flourish and not ruin their careers. If students claim to have written their answers correctly why shouldn’t they be allowed to prove it and dispose off their case at the earliest? Delay in re-evaluation results has been a long-standing issue which usually ends up costing students a year. The students who obtain Xerox-copies of answer scripts through RTI should be allowed to get these scripts re-evaluated through a notified team of teachers. It is time to change the old guards, have a separate controller for UG-exams, to bring qualitative changes in the aggravated state of affairs.