Too much of anything is not good. The results of India’s first online examinations bear proof of this. An unprecedented number of students from Delhi Technological University have received the “outstanding” grade, or at least 90 per cent marks. The misgivings of some educators regarding online examinations become clear if the figures are compared to last year’s results. For instance, 67 of the 104 students who wrote the big data analytics paper this year received the “outstanding” grade as opposed to 16 out of 98 students last year. It is difficult to believe that diligence and enterprise fetched such excellent results. There are murmurs that some of the ‘meritorious’ students may have evaded the checks and balances and resorted to unfair means to score heavily. The entire point of an examination is to fairly judge the merit of students. But the principle is rendered meaningless in the absence of proper scrutiny. The push towards an online curriculum is understandable. But such a shift must take into account and address the question of cheating. There are other concerns. How equitable is the system? Only 9 per cent of Indian households had a computer and access to the internet in 2017-18. Unesco’s warning to India about online education excluding poor students must be looked into.
Education policy must also address the problem of students adopting unfair means during examinations. The pressure exerted on students by family and even educators to excel is a likely cause of the transgression. This burden is also forcing students to perceive education and examination simply as means to an end instead of ways of gaining and assessing knowledge.