Report of Examination Reforms Committee

Note submitted to Dean Examinations

Prof. M.L Singla,
Dean, Examinations
University of Delhi

January 30, 2008

Dear Prof. Singla,

Please find attached a note on the Report of the Examination Reforms Committee which we are submitting in response to your letter for deliberation in the Academic Council. We have also enclosed a note submitted earlier to the University on Moderation of Internal Assessment Marks by Kirori Mal College.

With regards,
Yours sincerely,

Abha Dev Habib, Bhupinder Chaudhry, Najma Rehmani, Rajib Ray, Sanjeev Kumar
(Members of the Academic Council)

——————————————————

Note on the Report of the Examination Reforms Committee

Internal Assessment

The internal assessment system has been in operation for four years and needs more substantial reworking than suggested in the Examination Reforms report. Broadly, the problems and the widespread discontent relate to the following: 1) overload on teachers and students, 2) non-transparent, seemingly unscientific, and visibly arbitrary system of standardization (moderation/normalization) of marks, 3) awarding marks for attendance, 4) refusal to redress grievances after declaration of results, 5) rules that irretrievably penalize students, 6) absence of any explicit mechanism for grievance redressal, 7) absence of guidelines and consequent non-operationalization of Monitoring Committees, Moderation Committees and Students Faculty Committees and 8) delay in declaration of results disrupting the academic schedule of the University.

We believe that the growing discontent and the increasing number of complaints should not be overly or covertly dismissed as unwillingness to work or as temporary ones emanating from certain problems of implementation. There are indeed serious problems of implementation which should be sorted out with greater staff and use of technology. However, there are problems which are inherent in the specific system of internal assessment we have adopted. Unless urgent corrective steps are initiated, the teaching-learning process would become a casualty of sloganeering.

Overloading defeats the objective

The specific system of continuous internal assessment that came into being clubbed together proposals that were debated as alternatives. One proposal was that the assessment should be continuous and that 25% of total marks should come through at least one home assignment/class test/presentation /project or of any other form in each term. Those who differed argued that these forms of assessments are not verifiable and that students would take more seriously a House Examination in the pattern of the annual examination they would have to face for the rest 75% of the marks. There was a third line of argument that considered awarding marks for attendance as a more verifiable system that would bring the students back into class rooms. What got adopted, however, was a simple totaling of all these and to overload the bundle further one more project apart from at least one assignment in each term got added. Each line of argument has some merits save awarding marks for attendance. The objective it meets could be met by seriously sticking to the extant attendance requirement norm for taking the annual examinations without seriously eroding co-curricular and extra curricular activities.

Bundling these together, however, is counterproductive. One cannot ignore the existing student-teacher ratio on the one hand and the over expanded curricula that the process of periodic updating without trimming the old brings about. Add to it the fact that college teachers are invariably made to teach a minimum of 18 periods (which is the maximum or a ceiling laid down to ensure certain minimum standards). There could be exceptions, but on the average the widespread copying, as has been reported, may become the rule. Overloading defeats the very objective of enriching the teaching-learning process.

We propose:
  • 1. that attendance requirements for appearing in the examinations should be strictly implemented but attendance should not be given marks since it is not assessment.
  • 2. that the 25% marks should come through at least two assignments (home assignment / written test / presentation / project work / seminar) and a house examination.
  • 3. that the choice of the various forms of assessment (home assignment / written test / presentation / project work) should be left open since, firstly, one or the other could be more suitable for specific subjects and papers. Secondly, the choice would also depend on the student-teacher ratio for each specific paper. The inherent superiority of a non-time bound mode such as home assignment can well be argued but no final judgment should be made regarding its efficacy in our system where we have little choice over many matters including hours of teaching and the student-teacher ratio. An extraordinary mind may be able to generate a plethora of assignments or discriminate between copied answers to similar questions. But the expectation that it is going to be the rule is somewhat unrealistic.

Moderation / Normalisation of Internal Assessment marks

There are widespread and justified misgivings about the current practice. The college and the department level moderation committees have no explicit mandate in this regard save the name of the committees. At the University level, the adjustments of marks in specific papers and for specific colleges and non-adjustment in the cases of others are both seemingly arbitrary. There are broadly two types of misgivings here: 1) if IA marks were to be adjusted in accordance with the annual final examination marks then why have internal assessment, 2) it expresses a lack of faith in the honesty and the ability of teachers and 3) specific colleges/subjects are being picked up for down-marking on the basis of some bias.

The first one arises from the failure of the University to explain the meaning of statistical correction that applies to large groups and that an individual student’s performance in the annual exam is not compared to his/her internal assessment performance. The second misgiving could be addressed too since the alternative is to give more fire to the allegations that IA has encouraged competitive over-marking across colleges and that some teachers make all students happy by giving all high marks. The third misgiving, however, appears to be borne out by feedback from various quarters in the absence of any transparency.

It is indeed unfortunate that two kinds of viewpoints have grown due to the refusal by the University to throw the procedure for standardization open to public scrutiny and suggestions. There are complaints by teachers and students that the University due to bias and lack of faith has decreased marks. Ironically, there are also complaints that students of certain colleges/subjects are suffering due to strict marking whereas others are getting over-marked and unfairly racing ahead.

The present practice of moderation has failed to silence such allegations as competitive over-marking and over-marking all as a substitute for teaching. If such allegations are not systemically addressed the credibility of the examination system is going to suffer further.

We propose:
  • that the standardization system is made transparent, open to criticism and suggestions for improvement by the academic community and is seen to be working without any bias, blindly following the same procedure for each paper and each college. A combination of such a system with more freedom over the mode of evaluation and without excessive overloading would help teachers to rank / assess students better and get useful feedback for their teaching.

We are attaching a detailed critique of the current moderation system submitted to the University by the teachers of Kirori Mal College which makes some valuable suggestions about the system of standardisation of internal assessment marks.

Grievance Redressal

There have been two severe lapses over the last three years. One, grievances of many students were simply not redressed. Students should neither be made to endlessly shuttle between their college and the University, each passing the blame on the other, nor can they be told that grievances will not be redressed since the system is too young and too complicated. Failure to redress grievances gives rise to disaffection and discredits the system.

The other lapse concerns the absence of guidelines and non- operationalisation of the IA Monitoring Committees, IA Moderation Committees and the Students Faculty Committees. Had these started working, then various ways of redressing grievances of the students at the college/department levels would have emerged instead of often baseless allegations of vindictiveness and arbitrariness.

  • To protect the credibility of the IA system there should be separate institutional mechanisms for examining complaints and redressing them. Urgent steps should be taken in this regard.

Internal Assessment is about improvement and should not become a penalty.

There is a provision of an alternate examination for students who are unable to appear at the House Examinations on account of representing the college/university in sports & games. The same provision should be extended to students who are unable to appear on account of illness or calamities beyond their control. Such an explicit provision is needed since students are not allowed to repeat internal assessment. To discourage widespread use of allegedly false medical certificates for various ends, some system of verification can be introduced. Like many other provisions this would be less cumbersome once the general problem of excessive overloading is addressed.

Harness technology and provide support staff to lessen clerical burden on teachers and to declare results in time.

The Examination Reforms report has made suggestions in this regard. While supporting those suggestions, we wish to emphasise that concrete steps should be worked out in these areas without further delay.

Centralised Evaluation

The proposal to make centralised evaluation compulsory is not acceptable. Facilities for centralised evaluation can be provided for those evaluators who wish to use it. However, each evaluator should have the freedom to choose the place, the time and the pace at which he/she feels comfortable in carrying out the task. An overall time limit, no doubt, has to be specified so that the results are declared in time. Unlike a desk job, the quality of evaluation may suffer if everyone is made to sit at a place to complete the task within specified hours.

Involvement of larger numbers of teachers in the examination work

It is unfortunate that the Examination Report quotes the decisions by the Executive Council since 1997 regarding examination work being part of the duty only to propose punitive action against teachers such as recording refusal in their personal files. Such a proposal reflects a sense of guilt on the part of the University administration in having failed to carry out the task of offering examinership to all teachers and seeking their acceptance, a task without which the most unacceptable practice of a few evaluators evaluating incredibly high number of scripts can not be put an end to.

We propose that the clause relating to recording in the personal files be deleted. We propose, further, that a clause that limits either the maximum number of times examinership can be declined by an individual be introduced. Moreover, academic pursuits, personal tragedies and pressing personal engagements should also be allowed as “sufficient good reason” for declining examinership alongside grounds such as maternity leave, long medical leave and study leave.

The Generation of Question Banks

The proposed workshops for creating question banks for each paper must be held annually and for longer duration in the initial years. The system should be introduced in a phased manner starting with a few programmes and be reviewed before extending it to other programmes. Further, the number of questions created must be “huge” – huge to the satisfaction of the workshops – before using the banks to draw questions.

We also seek changes in the proposal made in the report with regard to the committees to moderate the questions that go in to the question bank and to finally approve the question papers. These moderation committee must include college teachers who are the teaching the concerned papers through a process of rotation. The finalisation of the question papers must be done by a Board of Examiners, which too should include college teachers as at present.

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