EDUCATION or LIFE: a dilemma for Indian students

When the world faces a deadly virus, Indian students seem to experience another dilemma in their lives. The dilemma of education or your own life. COVID-19 has changed the world forever and everyday cases in India touch new peaks. That affects millions of students around the globe. Still, this topic is not being covered by our mainstream media.

Final year exams for university students are still pending. Union grants commission (UGC), a legislative body governing the quality of higher education in India, moved the date for final year examinations to 31 July, on 29 April 2020. When the lockdown was implemented in March 2020, we all thought the lockdown would help suppress the spread of coronavirus but as of today, India is the third worst-affected county in the world.

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Most of India’s state governments with the largest number of cases, such as Maharastra, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, had declared that they will not conduct examinations. But now all of a sudden UGC has announced that all the universities should complete final year exams by 30 September 2020.

So what a student is meant to do? should they comply with state or UGC decision? The UGC guideline is not a suggestion but an order that all the universities that are subject to its guidelines must follow.
In India, COVID cases are on the rise. Students come from different regions of India for each University. If the examinations are to be conducted in such a circumstance, then it is challenging to obey the rules of social distancing, and if, for that reason, any student catches the virus, then who is responsible for it. Most students even come from rural areas to study in urban areas so is it wise to call them back from the villages? universities will also need supervisors and additional help.

UGC also provided the option to conduct online examinations, but a large percentage of students in India still do not have access to a personal computer or laptop or stable internet connection. The examination also requires personal space and quiet surroundings. In our county where the bulk of the population is part of the middle-class sector, such conditions are not yet available in such households.

We do not have a tried or tested infrastructure that can support this motion to carry out the online examinations as of now. Delhi University had tried mock evaluation, but many students were constantly confronted with server problems and were unable to register or download the tests. Will this method allow other small universities to carry out examinations in such a situation?

A senior UGC official had also claimed that academic credibility needs to be preserved. The question that emerges is what they’re talking about in credibility. The vulnerabilities of the Indian education system are well established. Approximately 80% of our engineers are unemployed each year because they lack practical skills, as our education system focuses more on theoretical learning than on practical or life skills.

Marks are an important part of the growth of a student but experience, abilities, and personality play a much greater role in shaping the future of someone. Some people have tried to refute this by saying lock-down is lifted now. Bus stops and liquor stores are opening so what’s the big deal with doing the tests physically. The reality here is that those people can choose whether to stay home or to choose safety. They are going out because they want to. Do students have the same choice as well?

The strain that it places on the students is not fair. Indian students already suffer from such problems as mental health, depression, stress, and anxiety. UGC also said it could push the dates further, depending on the situation at the time. That means students will still have to live in this confusion until COVID-19. Most students are looking forward to work, internships, or postgraduate studies. They can’t have their lives on hold for this. They need some relief from mental stress.
And, ultimately, what is the solution?

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No one suggests offering the degree for free, instead, students may be given a provisional degree based on their average marks in the last semesters. This would assist them in securing jobs or internships and getting admissions. After that, they can be given a timeline of 2 to 3 years to give their exams and get their degree again.

Examinations are not the only way to evaluate the knowledge and learning of a student. Projects or assessments could also be given. This is also the time when employers should attach importance to other practical aspects. Parents should support their kids and students should strive to raise awareness about this. We must all acknowledge that examinations are only part of education and not a description. “Marks only give you professional exposure, they do not guarantee success in that field.”

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