How will India’s education ministry ‘save’ the academic year amid Covid-19 lockdown?

The global outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has seen unprecedented measures taken by countries to save human lives, keep economies afloat, and ensure that education systems can function and students can learn in a distance learning environment. Students all across the world are now studying remotely as campuses shut down in an attempt to help contain the virus.
India’s Covid-19 lockdown, that started in March and continues, has left millions of high school and university students anxious. Most central universities have had to postpone their final exams, which usually take place in March and April, due to the restrictions brought in to curb the spread of the coronavirus. There is no clarity how students will complete this academic year.


News updates indicate the following:

* The University Grants Commission has recommended that universities develop virtual classroom and videoconference facilities, give staff training in the systems and upload materials to websites, with the aim of shifting about 25% of syllabi online. The UGC also urged flexibility in modes of conducting exams, which could be done in-person or online. Assessments could be based half on various evaluations and half on the previous semester’s performance.
* Current students will restart on 1 August, and new students on 1 September. This is a shift from the regular academic year, which starts in July or August.
* The Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) and the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), admissions exams for technology and medicine programmes, would be held in July and August.
* No fee hikes to be announced for Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), International Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) or National Institutes of Technology (NITs) as families face an economic downturn. Previous tuition fee increases at IITs have resulted in mass student protests.
* Students have been reassured that plans are being made to ensure that the year is saved.
* Delhi University (DU) shut in mid-March and now the authorities are mulling conducting end-semester exams online.
* Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has postponed exams, but is confident that things will be well enough by late June and July to conduct exams. The JNU administration has also allowed different centres to choose their own mode of exams and many, especially Science departments, are choosing to go with offline exams.


With school and colleges shut, there was a mad dash to compensate for the lost time by introducing haphazard models of online learning. In most Indian educational institutions, it is actually a miracle to find a working computer and WiFi connection with proper bandwidth. But the online classes began, and are still continuing. Poor WiFi and computer security rampant in India will impact online exams. Will Indian educational institutes break norms and not conduct online exams and evaluate students based on past performance?
A UGC committee seems to be against the idea of conducting online exams, as it feels India does not have the required infrastructure for it.


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