Future uncertain: Impossible to hold final-year examinations, says Maharashtra education minister Uday Samant

In an attempt to clear the confusion among students, Higher and Technical Education Minister Uday Samant, on Thursday, announced via a video press conference that it is not possible to conduct final year examinations in the state considering the COVID-19 pandemic. Samant confirmed the state has taken this decision after thorough discussion with the vice chancellors (VC) of 13 universities of the state and has communicated the same to the University Grants Commission (UGC) through a letter dated July 7, 2020. The state government will wait for the next two to three days for a response from the UGC.

Samant said, "After thorough discussions with VCs of 13 universities of the state, we have taken a decision that it is not possible to conduct final year examinations in Maharashtra on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have clearly conveyed this decision by writing a letter to the UGC on July 7. We have taken this decision considering the health and safety of students, parents, teachers, faculty and staff involved in the examination process."

Further, the state Higher Education Department has received recommendations from VCs to grade all the students, including ATKT, based on the average marks of the previous semesters. Samant said, "Vice chancellors have suggested a formula to grade all the students based on the average of their aggregate marks of the previous semesters and provide them with results. This formula can also be applied to students who have ATKT or backlog exams. VCs have stated that those students who do not pass after being awarded the average marks formula will be given grace marks by the respective universities. We will check these recommendations and take a final decision regarding the formula."

The state aims to stick to the earlier decision of conducting optional exams for those students who are not satisfied with the average marks formula. Samant said, "Students who wish to improve their scores can appear for the optional exams. Universities can decide a time-table after analysing the situation on the ground."

Samant blamed the UGC for not responding earlier and delaying the revision of guidelines. Samant said, "I had written a letter to the UGC on May 17 stating that final year examinations should not be conducted in Maharashtra due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But I did not receive a response. Also, the revised UGC guidelines do not give any clarity on issues such as how should exams be conducted for students in containment zones, how will answer papers be assessed, what about students who have travelled to their native villages, where will students stay, what about colleges and universities converted into quarantine centres, how will results be declared before September."

Over 10.18 lakh final-year students of various programmes await a final decision. Samant said, "I have requested the chief minister of Maharashtra to discuss the issue with the central government in the next two to three days. Also, we will wait for a response from the UGC."

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Free Press Journal