Hundreds of students blockaded College Street in north Kolkata and sat in front of Calcutta University’s gates demanding online exams, around the time college principals told the vice-chancellor at a meeting on the campus that they favoured offline tests.
The students demanded they be allowed to write the exams with their books open.
They cited many excuses for such a demand. One of them even referred to “Harvard and Oxford”.
Teachers who are familiar with western universities said these students had no idea what they were talking about because open-book exams demand critical thinking and look for answers that books do not readily provide.
Krishanu Barik, a student of MCom who cited “Harvard and Oxford”, said they were opposed to offline exams because the syllabus was not completed.
“At this moment we prefer open-book exams. The pattern of open-book exams is different from that of offline exams…. I am not saying that in an open-book system one can pass by copying all answers from the book,” said Barik.
“In western countries, Harvard and Oxford follow the open-book system. They are much ahead of us.”
Partha Ray, a former teacher at IIM Calcutta who is now director of the National Institute of Bank Management, Pune, said that in the open-book system, teachers set questions that require students to answer in more analytical and critical ways.
“As someone who had written open-book exams during my days at Oxford, I can tell you they test students’ ability to quickly find relevant information and then to understand, analyse and apply knowledge, while thinking critically. Answering the question will require more than just copying information from texts. Having access to a textbook may stop them from giving a wrong answer if they cannot remember a fact or formula,” said Ray.
“These protesting students are demanding open-book exams because they think they can copy answers from books and score good marks.”
Undergraduate and postgraduate students assembled in front of CU’s gates on College Street and Peary Charan Sarkar Street from noon. They were still at the gates when the principals’ meeting with the VC started around a couple of hours later.
VC Sonali Chakravarti Banerejee later told The Telegraph in a text message: “It appeared that according to the opinions of most of them (the principals), the ensuing UG (even semesters) examinations should be conducted in offline mode. These views will be finally considered by the syndicate in its meeting on June 3.”
Souryadeep Sau, a second-year physics honours student of Scottish Church College, said: “Our syllabus has remained incomplete. So the examinations must be held online.”