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JNU Row: Use of WhatsApp for university exams is mockery of education

School of International Studies, JNU has proposed holding semester examinations over WhatsApp after student protests disrupted lectures

December 21, 2019 / 09:48 AM IST

New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) was in the news over a slew of protests by students over the fee hike that is expected to impact about 40 percent of scholars.

The university has made news yet again on December 16 after a strange circular by JNU’s school of international studies said students could give their exams via messaging application WhatsApp or on email.

As per the bizarre circular by international studies school professor Aswini Mohapatra, the semester examination question papers would be sent to the M Phil/PhD and MA programme students by their course teachers.

How will it work?

The centre chairperson will prepare the examination schedule. Once this is done, question papers will be sent to students. How they would receive the papers is unclear, but it is likely that email or WhatsApp would be used.

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JNU circular

The JNU circular further states that students can submit their answers either by email, hand-written scripts through WhatsApp or personally to the teacher. Students will be given till December 21 to submit their answer scripts and can also seek additional time of one day.

What about cheating?

Questions about how JNU plans to ensure that nobody impersonates the student and writes the examination on his/her behalf have risen.

JNU justified the move saying that it is an ‘extraordinary situation’ and that this decision was in the academic interest of students, for end-semester examinations.

The open-book examination is a concept still being experimented with across various educational institutions in India, but using WhatsApp to conduct examinations is still an unheard-of process.

While the fee hike protests will likely impact examination schedules, delaying the tests could be a better option. Losing a semester in University can tricky and the JNU administration should be appreciated for trying to bridge the gap.

However, using WhatsApp only makes a mockery of the examination system. Having alternate venues or later date for the examination would be more beneficial from a student’s perspective.

The idea of holding examinations at the end of every semester is to gauge how much of the course curriculum a student has learned and evaluate their understanding of the subject.

Holding an examination over WhatsApp may help students save a year but the entire purpose of education is lost in this process.

If social messaging platforms were to be used to conduct examinations, there would not be a need for students to attend any course lectures. - simply googling answers and distributing them via WhatsApp would do.

The real challenge, however, will come in when these students graduate out of the university and join the employment force. What appropriate answer would they give when taking up crucial positions in a government or private firm’s strategy or administrative team.

JNU needs to re-think this process and ensure that while students’ interest is kept in mind, proper examination and evaluation process is conducted. Better would be either cancel the examination or delay it than to hold it on WhatsApp.
M Saraswathy
first published: Dec 21, 2019 09:48 am

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