The Covid-19 pandemic has led to the closure of several institutions and has adversely affected millions of school-going children. Continued closure of schools will impact learning negatively. While most schools and colleges across the country have begun delivering classes online, the question of organizing examinations remains debatable.
Although many students and parents have appealed to the HRD Ministry to call off final exams in view of the pandemic, the ministry officials have expressed that repealing exams is not practical. It is mandatory to award degrees based purely on the performance in examinations.
The HRD Minister had tweeted in this regard. As per his tweet, he had solicited the UGC to outline the code of conducting examinations, while giving due consideration to the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff of the institutions.
A fresh set of guidelines or the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for conducting exams for higher educational institutes across the country has been issued by the Ministry of Human Resources with inputs from the Ministry of Home.
The SOP stipulates the arrangements required for seating of students, and the mandatory wearing of masks as well as gloves, besides intense sanitization process, and several more points to be followed by schools and colleges.
The HRD advice has urged schools and colleges to draft the agenda to carry out exams. They have to consider conducting the tests in the classroom, virtual, or a combination of both modes.
The institutes need to evaluate their readiness for conducting the exams by taking into account the condition of Covid-19 spread in the school / district/ region concerned; the status of students and staff in the school / college affected by the novel coronavirus; the situation of the students’ commute to the exam hall in case of the paper-and-pencil mode; and the contingency plans to handle exigencies.
The protocol announced earlier this year had directed the schools and colleges to carry out the exams in July this year, stipulating many alternatives for executing the examinations, like considering the students’ performances in the current and past semesters, but leaving the ultimate call for the concerned board / university to take it forward.
The memorandum from MHRD with copies to concerned officers of the UGC, AICTE, Health and Family Welfare, and Secretaries of Education in states and union territories, reads thus:
- Final -Term Examinations should be compulsorily conducted as per UGC guidelines on Examinations and Academic Calendar for the Universities dated 29.04.2020.
- All Examinations may be conducted by 30th September 2020.
- Taking into consideration the academic interest of a large number of students, MHA has agreed to the request of MHRD and granted exemption for the opening of educational institutions for the purpose of holding examinations / evaluation work for final Term Examinations of the Universities / Institutions.
- MHRD has formulated detailed SOP for the conduct of examinations with precautions to be taken given the COVID -19 situation. This has been vetted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- Previous instructions regarding “Work from home” sent vide letter dated 30.06.2020 will not apply to the officers, faculty, and non-teaching staff who are involved in Examination / Evaluation / Admission work.
A look at the precept raised by the ministry:
- Universities and colleges should abide by the directives, ground rule, and mandate declared by the central and state governments in the interest of health and safety of all concerned. Relaxation of the protocol will not be tolerated, but more rigid statutes are welcome.
- In the event of constraints in movements, state governments must dispatch passes to all the personnel involved in conducting examinations. Students should be allowed to move with their Admit cards / hall tickets.
- Care should be taken to sanitise the premises where an examination is held, including floors, walls, doors, gates, etc.
- On completion of staff verification, all personnel involved will present themselves wearing masks and gloves.
- Bottles containing sanitizers to be made available at entrance points, examination rooms, common rooms of staff / students, etc., and the same to be restocked on demand.
- Bottles containing hand-wash should be refilled in restrooms and entry points as and when they are exhausted.
- Seats for candidates must be sanitised carefully following each session.
- Restrooms must be cleaned and disinfected thoroughly and hygiene should be maintained.
- Every point in the premises like entrances, stairways, and rooms must be disinfected.
- If wheelchairs are used, they must be thoroughly sanitised.
- Dust bins should be cleaned and sanitised thoroughly.
- Personnel reporting for duty should be checked and verified:
- Self -declaration of health
- Temperature check at the entrance with thermo gun
- Failure to pass the above disqualifies the person’s entry into the exam hall
- The staff members to wear masks and gloves
- Maintenance of government department regulations
- Departments must present themselves hygienically in line with safety and health regulations at all times.
- Placards displaying instructions and guiding movement of people should be in place, and safe social distancing must be maintained by all.
- Use of the Ärogya Sethu” application is recommended for the safety of students and staff at the examination hall.
- Sufficient provisions must be made for use of thermal scanners, sanitisers, safety face-masks, and gloves at all entrances and exits, and the reception areas. Candidates have to be provided with fresh face-masks on demand.
- Cluster and gathering of people should be strictly prohibited.
- All the entry and exit points should be made accessible to facilitate smooth movements.
- Students must maintain a minimum of two metre distance while waiting or moving in queues, and this should be monitored by school personnel.
- Staff must ensure students are wearing masks, use sanitisers, and are fit to enter the exam hall post passing thermal screening of temperatures.
- Supervisors on duty in the exam hall must wear face masks and gloves all the time during the exam.
- Candidates must be made to sanitise their hands before ad after signing the attendance sheet.
- Candidates who display any fever or other symptoms like coughing or sneezing must be seated in an isolated room or asked to take the exam another day.
- Handwash kiosks must be placed at regular intervals and refilled when needed for use by students and staff.
- Sufficient rooms should be available for seating of candidates with proper social distancing.
- Potable and safe water should be arranged for the benefit of students and staff.
- Washrooms should have water supply and handwash should be available in them.
- Waste should be disposed of and clean dustbins should be placed in restrooms.
- Buses and vans used for commuting students / staff should be sanitised thoroughly.
- Before closing for the day,
- Pedal-push covered bins should be available for disposal of used gloves and masks outside the examination hall.
- All thrash should be safely disposed of in standardized bags at prescribed spots defined by standard guidelines.
- Logs of all exam agents and supervisors should be documented for future reference. Reports of supervisors should be archived in the system via the staff verification process.
Institutions should take cognizance of the health and safety of their students and staff and ensure that safety procedures are followed to the letter.
They must address concerns of panic and uncertainty arising from the pandemic among students and staff. Restlessness with regard to classes, mode of instruction, syllabus, exams, results, or any other forms of apprehension must be addressed by the authorities and the students and faculty should be reassured by the concerned departments.
Issues coming from conducting classes in online or offline mode should be dealt with. Faculty must be given sufficient training and support for the same.
Institutions must get their premises and personnel trained in crisis management and must get the expertise necessary to handle risks of spreading the virus.
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