NEW DELHI – The Central government’s two recent major policy decisions have stirred up a hornet’s nest in the education sector in the country, what with students’ bodies in several states dashing off angry missives to the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD).
In a virtual press conference organised by the Students Islamic Organisation (SIO) on July 10, panelists termed University Grants Commission’s (UGC) guidelines for holding final examinations by September-end ‘dangerous’ and ‘irrational’. It also accused the Central Board of School Education (CBSE) of pushing a Hindutva agenda with its latest syllabus revision.
While the UGC’s revised guidelines on exams came on Monday advising universities to hold examinations for final-year students by the end of September, the CBSE reduced its exams syllabus for Classes 9 to 12 by 30% for the 2020-21 academic session, citing loss of classroom teaching due to COVID-19.
The SIO press conference was addressed by Member of Parliament ET Basheer, JNU research scholar Sadat Hussain Khalifa and Syed Ahmed Muzakkir, Director, Centre for Educational Research and Training (CERT).
Basheer, a former Education Minister of Kerala and sitting MP, underlined several problems with the UGC’s guidelines to hold exams for all final-year students by September end.
“Examination should not be a one-time affair… it should be a continuous process, that is, comprehensive and continuous evaluation… the real ability of a student cannot be judged by one examination…” He said that these UGC guidelines should be made recommendatory and not mandatory, with states being allowed to make their own decision.
Sadat Khalifa, a research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, questioned the basis for setting September-end as the time for conducting exams.
“Does the UGC have any medical experts saying that (COVID) cases will go down by September-end? When cases are rising all over the nation, what is the rationale for putting students, teachers and all university staff at risk?” he asked.
The UGC had issued guidelines specifying compulsory conduct of examination by September-end, either as online or offline with safety protocol but detailed perusal of the UGC document reveals irrational and dangerous guidelines, say educationists, students and teachers.
Syed Ahmed Muzakkir, Director of CERT, said that “Such shallow understanding of education and academic progress brings into question the credibility of the ‘experts’ involved. Assessment of the students must be on a continuous basis and of comprehensive nature, instead of one-off examination with limited scope of assessment.”
Furthermore, he raised concerns regarding the mandatory requirement of installing Aarogya Setu app for students appearing in the examination.
CBSE pushing ‘Govt-Sangh Agenda’ in the name of slashing syllabus
The SIO press meet panelists also discussed a recent move in which the CBSE, under the direction of the MHRD, revised the school syllabus and reduced it by 30 per cent.
Subjects such as political science, business studies, history, social science, covering topics like democratic rights, citizenship, secularism, nationalism, federalism, challenges to democracy, monopoly, demonetisation, GST, growth of education sector, partition, social movements, etc., have been dropped for secondary and higher secondary classes in the guise of reducing the load on student during the pandemic.
Commenting on these changes, Basheer said, “The basic structure of Indian culture depends on secular democracy. BJP always has its own agenda on these subjects…whether it is democracy or secularism… The CBSE move is ill-motivated. They are having their own hidden agenda. I am of the opinion that secular democratic forces must oppose this.”
CERT director Syed Ahmed Muzakkir remarked that this was a clear case of CBSE ‘pushing the Govt-Sangh Agenda’. “The manner in which topics were slashed exposes the priorities of the government and its nefarious agenda to divest the younger generation of the plural and democratic ethos and ideals along with depriving them of crucial and important knowledge.”
“The citizens of India should pressurise the government against such undemocratic practices. On the other hand, whilst the government is proactive in reducing the syllabus, it must also reduce the fee correspondingly as it will negatively affect large sections of the students.”