As the government announced the opening of universities from 1st February 2021, the universities announced on-campus semester exams. After the announcement of on-campus exams, a panic was created among students. In different cities and universities, students protested against the on-campus exam policy. Students from Lahore College for Women University, National University of Modern Languages, Arid University, BZU Multan, UMT Sialkot and KFUEIT Rahim Yar Khan demonstrated their demands in protests.
In Lahore, a large number of students from public and private universities protested against their institutes for holding on-campus examinations. Carrying posters and banners saying “We want online exams” they reached the Governor’s House demanding the Governor to direct universities to conduct online exams. Now it becomes a countrywide issue and needs the attention of the authorities.
The protesting students said they were not in favour of holding exams since the syllabus could not be completed due to the pandemic. They expressed concern over online classes and demanded holding exams online or they be promoted. They stressed that they were now being told that exams would take place on campus, which was not possible due to the prevailing situation of COVID 19 second wave.
Last year, educational institutes had promoted students to the next class/semester without conducting exams and based on marks obtained in internal assessment and previous examinations. On the other hand, university authorities considered the protest and claims of students baseless. However, the university authorities said that the Higher Education Commission had issued directions for conducting on-campus examinations and they had to follow the policy. They said previously the students were promoted without any exams, which was also done on the directions of the HEC and the government.
It is necessary to carefully examine the problems and demands of protesting students. Maybe they are trying to create a situation to avoid examination or to avail grading like in last semester. The protesting students said that the syllabus was not complete because teachers were not conducted online classes properly. The university authorities said that it was simply out of the question that teachers did not conduct classes. In contrast, the majority of teachers complained about the absence of students from online classes. The syllabus completion report submitted by the teachers is satisfactory.
The protesting students said that they were unable to join online classes because of poor internet connectivity. If students have poor internet connectivity then how they can manage it during an online exam. The majority of universities accepted the demand of students for online exams and decided to conduct the exam in the computer labs of the campus but students did not agree with it. This clearly shows that the students want an opportunity of cheating to get high grades. It is interesting that in contrast to protesting ones many students want on-campus exams. They emailed the authorities and demanded an on-campus examination. These students have high CGPA and consistently good grades in previous semesters. They consider online examination as injustice with them because the non-serious students would get high grades by cheating.
Some universities accepted the demand for online exams but they decided to delay the examination by two weeks and to conduct on-campus classes for two weeks starting from 1st of January 2020. After two weeks of on-campus classes, the mode of online examination will be decided. It is also decided to conduct online exams in computer labs of the university under the supervision of invigilators to eliminate the culture of cheating.
The majority of students who participated in the protest consistently have low CGPA and poor grades in earlier examinations. It seems that they want online exams only to get high grades by using unfair practices. If they did not have internet connectivity for online classes they how they would manage it for an online exam. During such a prevailing pandemic situation, the government banned all gatherings. The students gathered for the protest which is an open violation of the SoPs given by the government. They came to university for protest but they do not want to come to campus for their education.
Another problem which students did not realize, it is typing skill. The majority of students have low typing speed. They will be simply unable to complete their online exam within the given time. No doubt, it would be challenging for those students to complete the exam on time who has poor typing skill. Students demanded that the teacher send question papers to them and then within one day they will write answers on physical sheets and send the scanned PDFs to the teacher for evaluation. If any institution does the same then how it is possible to manage transparency of the examination. Such demand by the students is unjustified and it is a fact that a large number of hardworking students are not in favour of such practice.
In the last semester, the majority of universities conduct online viva instead of the online final examination following the exam policy given by the HEC. The students who did not have internet connectivity participated in the viva exam even through phone calls. Secondly, in the case of engineering, medical and computer sciences it is difficult to conduct lab exams online because there were problems in the online teaching of lab courses. Majority of universities lacking in simulating technology which is necessary to teach lab courses. It would be good if universities either include the lab courses in the next semesters or manage on-campus lab examination after proper lab teaching.
Students are also using social media to raise their voices. The protest is not only on the streets, but students have also taken to Twitter with #StudentsWantOlineExams and #StudentsRejectPhysicalExams trending on the micro-blogging site. Students are also using other social media platforms like Facebook. In this regard, some posts on social media are aggressively showing disrespect for teachers as well as for institutions. The majority of such negative posts are from different fake accounts. It is another serious matter. If these are posted by the students then they need serious counselling otherwise it is necessary to find out who is trying to ignite the situation.
No doubt, the future of many students as well as the future of our education system depends on this serious issue. It would be good, if controlling authorities like HEC formulate a justified solution and make sure its uniform implementation in all universities countrywide. The situation would become more complex if different universities implement different solutions. These protesting students are like our own children. They are the future of this nation. Many senior professors suggested that it would be suitable to delay the semester exam. Universities must conduct on-campus classes for two to four weeks from the 1st of February 2021 for course revision purposes and then conduct exams after proper counselling of the students.