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Students will have to take open-book exams till schools reopen, here’s why

For a school, setting up a basic online exam platform could cost Rs 30,000-70,000 per year; completely online proctored tests with AI assistance could cost Rs 5-10 lakh. And nobody wants to foot the bill

July 29, 2020 / 03:51 PM IST

Rupsha Roy, a sixteen-year-old Class X student from Kolkata, is taking her first-term school examination from home. Considering the online proctoring methods used by higher education institutions across India, many would assume Roy’s school would adopt similar invigilation methods to monitor the students. That, however, wasn’t quite the case.

Roy wrote the examination with the book right in front of her. She said that her school did not issue any guidelines on writing the exams online.

“We had to log in on a portal and had been given a user id and password to write the examination. My friends openly used their mobile phones to search for answers. What is the use of giving exams like this,” asked Roy.

Her mother, Anuradha Roy, agreed. When Anuradha and a few other parents sent an email to the school principal wanting to understand the rationale behind these exams, the school said that online proctoring systems cost several lakhs and so the management decided against it.

For a school, setting up a basic online exam platform could cost between Rs 30,000-70,000 per year if third-party services are availed. Completely online proctored tests with artificial intelligence (AI) assistance could cost between Rs 5-10 lakh on an average. The higher the number of students, the lower the cost for the conducting authority, since the candidate pays for the examination.

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Also Read: Schools, parents fight over fee payment issue

Why are parents concerned?

Parents, especially of students in Classes IX-XII, are worried that the learning curve of the candidate will be hampered if online examinations are not monitored by the school authorities remotely.

Chennai-based education consultant Meenakshi Raman is of the view that video-based live oral assessments should be held.

“If students can give examinations looking at answers from their mobile phones, the real impact of giving examinations will not be felt. For students in Class X and XII it is crucial. Else, how will the candidates be marked in internal assessments,” she asked.

The fee issue has already created a rift between school managements and parents across India. Moneycontrol had reported on how several Gujarat schools have now even stopped online classes since the State government had asked these institutions to not collect any fees till physical classes resume.

On July 27, the schools in Gujarat resumed classes after multiple requests from parents.

Who bears the cost?

Now, when parents are facing challenges even paying regular school fees due to online classes, the worry is over how they will agree to paying an additional sum for an online proctored test.

Sanjana Ramrakhiani, principal of a Pune-based private school, is of the view that schools cannot be made to bear all costs.

“Exams are conducted for the benefit of students. If advanced technology is to be used, how can school managements be expected to pay for this? Parents will have to pitch in,” she added.

Also Read: How does online proctoring work?

However, Meerut-based businessman Shravan Gupta disagrees. He is of the view that since schools already collect multiple charges on an annual basis, including administrative costs, a caution deposit and examination fees, these should be used to pay for technology.

“Why should parents keep funding schools all the time? These institutions already keep collecting high fees even when no classes are being held. My 12-year-old son has some two to three ‘online’ classes conducted by his school every week. I have paid annual fees of Rs 2.5 lakh already. Why can’t they use that money for these proctored exams,” he added.

“Why should parents keep funding schools all the time? These institutions already keep collecting high fees even when no classes are being held. My 12-year-old son has some two to three ‘online’ classes conducted by his school every week. I have paid annual fees of Rs 2.5 lakh already. Why can’t they use that money for these proctored exams,” he added.

With an estimated 1.5 million schools across India in rural and urban areas, it is unlikely that online proctored examinations will be preferred by everyone. In rural areas, low internet connectivity would mean that online proctored tests done live would face disruptions. Further, the high costs may be unaffordable.

Right now, clarity is awaited from the Human Resource Development Ministry on mid-term assessment models for Classes X and XII. For the rest of the classes, ‘open-book’ tests will continue till physical classes resume.
M Saraswathy
first published: Jul 29, 2020 03:51 pm

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