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Final Year Exams “Compulsory”: What is India’s Obsession with Examinations in the Middle of a Pandemic?

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The global coronavirus pandemic has ensured that everyone who lived through 2020 will remember it for its hardships. But students whose academic years were thrown into disarray by Covid-19 will have more to complain about than most. With schools, colleges, and universities being closed due to the disease, students in India and abroad have felt the impact. Campuses have remained closed, classes have moved online, and in many cases, examinations have been cancelled. However, on Monday India’s Home Ministry decreed that end-of-term exams – which have been pending since March due to the lockdown – can be held in September while observing safety measures.

Shortly after the Home Ministry’s announcement, the University Grants Commission announced a fresh set of guidelines confirming that exams would be held in September. A letter from the Home Ministry to the Higher Education Secretary stated that the “final term examinations are to be compulsorily conducted as per the UGC Guidelines and academic calendar for the Universities and as per the Standard Operating Procedure approved by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.”

The announcement of September examinations has been met with disapproval by students. Many states had previously cancelled all exams, and were promoting students after internally assessing their past performances. The September exams will mean students will have to continue the wait for their degrees. There are also concerns that if the exams are held offline, the gathered students and invigilators could become a public health concern.

We have the example of Karnataka right in front of us. Thirty-two students who sat for the School Leaving Certificate examinations tested positive for coronavirus, according to the government data released on Saturday. NSUI held a protest against the UGC’s revised guidelines today.

The woes of students don’t seem to end. Overseas, things aren’t looking so rosy for Indians studying in the US as well. Two days ago, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that foreign students whose schools have moved to online classes for the pandemic would not be allowed to remain in the country. “Non-immigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States,” ICE said in a statement, adding that “the State Department will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will US Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.”

Student life is supposed to be memorable. But for the class of 2020, coronavirus has made it something they’d rather forget.

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