A couple of days ago, the demand by the students for conducting online exams rather than on-campus exams was a top trend on Twitter with over 150,000 tweets in that context. Simultaneously, protests ensued in various parts of the country which led to students being baton charged by the police and many being critically injured. During all this time, one of the strong arguments the students had to support their point of view was the rapidly spreading Coronavirus pandemic.
However, had the real reason behind the demand for online exams been an effort to curb the spread of Coronavirus, the afore-mentioned protests would not have been organized; reports suggest that educational institutions and on campus exams do not play a significant role, if any, in the spread of Corona-virus, gatherings and protests do!
As a matter of fact, the closure of educational institutions for many months in the previous year has impacted students in a number of ways.
Online learning appeared to be an alternate means to continue the studies during the time the educational institutions were closed. However, according to the Inclusive Internet Index 2020, access to the internet is only available to 78 million users. Furthermore, a report by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics highlights that 67.5% of the population in Pakistan lives in rural areas (which lack the infrastructure to benefit from digital education). In this situation, online learning (that required, apart from a laptop or mobile phone, a stable internet connection) was certainly not a feasible option for the majority of students.
When many students were either unavailable or showed the least interest in online classes, the teachers also could not teach what they would have ordinarily taught had the face to face classes continued. The sole impact of the foregoing situation was that students lagged behind in covering up the syllabus and in acquiring knowledge and understanding of a concept.
Secondly, a reliable report suggested that, as a consequence of the closure of educational institutions, one million children will drop out of school. Such an adverse occurrence will have an ever-lasting impact on Pakistan where an estimated 22.8 million school-aged children are out of school already, according to another report. In other words, the closure of educational institutions has robbed Pakistan of many to-be multi-talented professionals! Such individuals have not only darkened their future, they have also caused a setback to their country.
Probably, the most sinister impact of the closure of educational institutions is that students have distanced themselves from their studies. The attention of students towards studies had faded away. They are, themselves, playing with their future!
In this ‘Coronavirus era’, businessman turned to E-Commerce to sell their products, national and multi-national firms introduced the ‘Work from Home’ policy for their employees, marquee owners facilitated outdoor gatherings on wedding occasions; but, school and college going students have turned to making ‘Tik Toks’ and mastering video games!
Recently, I questioned the Principal of a renowned private college regarding the effectiveness of online education. He replied, “Online learning has done a huge loss to many students. We continued to organize regular online tests of students. They would score full marks owing to the many means of cheating available. However, when the same students gave written tests in college, it was revealed that they know nothing!”
In the afore-mentioned statement, the answer to the reason behind students protesting for online exams instead of on-campus exams is evident. The demand has not much to do with the spread of Coronavirus; however, it is viewed by students as a means to cover-up their very own negligence. Online exams are not viewed as a feasible option in the more developed European countries; ensuring impartiality in conducting online exams in our country is next to impossible.
Concisely, the loss that students have undergone in past couple of months of online learning can still be counter-balanced. All it requires is a sincere effort and the willingness to work hard.
By: Muhammad Majid Shafi