Says it has noted concerns of students; minister satisfied with commission’s decisionISLAMABAD: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has asked the universities to decide on their own the model under which they would want to conduct examinations.

The HEC and university authorities met for two days to sort out the ongoing controversy on holding of exams.

Students of various educational institutions have been protesting for the last several days, demanding that the exams be held online and not on campuses.

“The HEC has already allowed universities to use their discretion to conduct exams, either on-campus or online, as long as the chosen mode provides a fair assessment of the students’ performance,” read a press release issued by the commission on Wednesday.

Following directives of Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood, the HEC had convened virtual meetings of vice chancellors on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the issue.

“Some students are demanding that their exams be held online as they had been taking classes online. This is a decision for the universities to make but I have asked HEC to consult vice chancellors and see if it is possible, given the special circumstances this year,” Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood announced a few days ago, following protest by students.

He had also said universities should also assess whether they had the technical ability to conduct exam for all students.

“No one can be left behind. It is also necessary to ensure that online exam system is not misused to get easy grades. Preparing good question papers/assessment is imp [important],” the minister had tweeted.

The press release stated that the commission had taken note of the concerns raised by students of some universities that their exams should be conducted online.

It said apprehensions of students were reviewed carefully in consultation with the vice chancellors of all the provinces and regions, keeping in view the difficulties brought about by the pandemic and opening of universities from Feb 1, 2021.

The press release said the HEC Guidance on Assessment and Examinations was available online, which said the higher education governing body had already allowed universities to use their discretion to conduct exams, either on-campus or online as long as the chosen mode provides a fair assessment of students’ performance. Universities should take stock of their “exam readiness”, i.e., technological readiness, managerial capacity and the announced policy, and choose the best possible mode of assessment.

It said online exams could be either used if the universities administer ‘Open Book Exams’ or establish an invigilation system in a supervised environment.

In this mode, universities will also have to use Turnitin to check similarity index with Web and the answers of other students. Further, viva/oral exam may be integrated in the assessment where necessary.

The HEC, while citing the said policy, said on-campus exams could be used only under strict compliance with all Covid-19 health and safety protocols. Universities may also have to organise make-up classes for two weeks in case students consider the course coverage to be deficient.

The press release said assessment of all courses requiring psychomotor skills, such as medicine and engineering, and subjects involving lab/studio work must be held on campus.

All students in a single course will be examined in the same mode i.e., either online or on-campus.

“Since March 2020, the HEC has been continuously monitoring the pandemic situation and coordinated with the universities to minimise academic disruption and continue online education with quality safeguards. The HEC Guidance on Online Readiness and Assessments and Examinations are available on HEC website and provide the requirements and minimum standards to be observed by universities,” it said.

Meanwhile, after the HEC’s decision, the education minister tweeted: “I am happy to note that HEC has formally allowed the universities to conduct online exams with adequate safeguards. This paves the way for them to devise right procedures quickly to do so. Education standards must be kept up. Work hard students and wish you the best.”

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2021

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