What India can do to fix its online exam problem (and other tech blunders)

Let's not leave it to luck.

 |  4-minute read |   22-05-2018
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With the advent of technology, our lives became simpler. It gave us the desired comfort we had been seeking since time immemorial. At the same time, technological innovation played a lucrative role in the present democratic political system. We began using the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) in order to curb booth capturing and other kinds of electoral mishief. But the EVM has changed our perception and brought the much-needed electoral transparency which we had been expecting for a long time.

After serving India's electorate for almost a decade and a half, the EVM too is facing some discrepancies. But, the advent of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) has brought the much-needed respite in the current system.

Online forms, banking and certificates have changed the working and lifestyle of the middle and upper classes. Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and other banking facilities have had an enormous impact on the lives of the working class in negative as well as positive ways. For some citizens, technology has paved the way for a simpler life while others claim that these technological advancements have made their lives more difficult.

In academia, too, technology has brought significant changes: we can now fill forms online, check results and download them easily. The recent news of a coolie in Kerala who qualified exams by studying using Wi-Fi is a harbinger of prosperity, and illustrates how life has been transformed through technology. Besides, innovation cuts down the cost of paper and saves time to a large extent. It limits the use of paper and photocopying costs, thus promoting a kind of "green revolution".

I am not saying that technology has always yielded results. Everything in this world has its pros and cons — as does technology. There are many cases which show that technology has played a villainous role in the lives of many ordinary citizens. With its use, people have been able to cheat smartly and even indulge in criminal activities by watching online videos.

The effective implementation of technology in our day-to-day life has become a farce for many. In recent times, we have witnessed much mismanagement by the examination committees that organise exams.

For example, when the SCC exam was conducted in 2017, there was massive outrage with regard to question paper leaks or certain instances of cheating or granting leeway by the invigilators. In fact, the government has already ordered a CBI probe into the matter. Let me take the liberty to cite the more recent technical glitches which left many aspirants in a quandary.

CLAT 2018, conducted by NUALS, Kochi, witnessed a slew of discrepancies that put the future of many students at stake. There were instances of mismanagement and indifferent behaviour by invigilators that left students nowhere.

da-690_052218075917.jpgThe execution of online exams needs an overhaul. Photo: PTI

Technology, at best, can provide you with a world-class facility but it can also leave you astray. There have been some instances where there is utter, grotesque mismanagement of an exam upon which rests the future of many aspirants. There have also been certain situations of incompatible technological issues. We have reached such a stage that we cannot imagine our life without technology. It has become a necessary evil. The execution of online exams needs an overhaul.

This leaves us with a simple question to ponder upon: what are the ways in which we can improve our technology so that it becomes a reality and not some random journey of luck? First of all, at every centre, appointments of competent and efficient technicians should be made for reporting discrepencies during exams.

There should be an upgradation of technology and archaic technologies should be discarded. An expert committee must be put in place to look into and supervise the use of technology in the exams. The government or the organising committees should also focus on the selection of appropriate hardware and software programmes, which should not leave any room for complacency. In addition, if any student is losing his/her time (supposedly, time starts a few minutes after the exam commences) due to some technical glitches, she/he should be compensated with extra time so that the right to equality flowing from Article 14 of the Constitution prevails.

The policy with regard to technology is not poor. It is the implementation which causes heebie-jeebies among the young and ignited minds of the nation. The steps taken in order to minimise paper use and save time have yielded positive results but — as explained above — these technologies have also been rugged with various discrepancies, causing discomfort to students. Therefore, it is high time we eschewed technological errors and made the interface more student-friendly — and based on convenience.

The government and the organising body should be cautious enough to avoid any error which consumes vital time during examinations. In the coming days, we can hope that the government and the management body will take some vital steps to strengthen the use of technology in our daily life and pave the way for its smooth functioning.

Also read: Flogging of Dalit man in Rajkot raises questions on Supreme Court diluting the SC/ST Atrocities Act


Ramanand Ramanand @iramanandn

Author is research fellow in Department of Education, Delhi University. His area of specialisation is Dalit and Tribals.

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