Oldest varsity's insistence on in-person tests costing students yearsEducation experts say the Tribhuvan University must find ways to make online tests valid and reliable.
Tika Ram Bhandari, 26, from Dang joined Master’s in Science programme majoring in Physics at the Tribhuvan University Central Campus, Kirtipur, in April 2018.
The two-year programme should have completed last year had the university conducted the teaching-learning activities and examinations smoothly. However, one year has passed since the completion deadline and it is not sure when the final test for the programme will be held.
The Office of the Controller of Examinations had published the schedule of the examinations for the third semester to commence from the first week of April last year. But the examinations were postponed indefinitely after the government imposed a lockdown starting March 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The university administrations shifted the teaching-learning activities to the virtual medium amid the pandemic.
However, despite requests from the students, the university refused to hold the examinations online which led it to conduct in-person tests only in December 2020.
“We were expecting that the examinations for the final semester would be held next month. The present lockdown has made it uncertain,” Bhandari told the Post. “It seems it will take four years to complete the two-year programme.”
Bhandari said as the continued lockdown pushed their examinations to uncertainty, they lobbied for online tests. However, the university waited until December last year, for the coronavirus cases to subside, to conduct the in-person test.
Following the pressure from the students, the university last year formed a committee led by Binil Aryal, now dean of Science at the university, to study the possibility of conducting online tests. The team concluded that though the university can conduct the examinations online, its validity could be in question.
“The Tribhuvan University has a huge student enrolment. It is not easy to track if the one taking the test is a genuine student,” Aryal told the Post. “We cannot fit tracking devices in the gadgets of all the students.”
He said existing laws and regulations in the country’s oldest and largest university do not envision holding tests online. The legal hurdles too need to be cleared before shifting towards online tests.
“It is meaningless to conduct the tests unless they get validity,” Aryal said. “The country should first have a clear policy regarding online tests before any university chooses to do so.”
Aryal might have raised questions about the validity of the tests conducted online but Kathmandu University, for instance, conducted online exams for its bachelor’s and master’s programmes last year and there have been no controversies. Several countries in the world have held face-to-face virtual examinations as it is still not possible for students and teachers to meet physically for the assessment.
Education experts say the Tribhuvan University should not push the academic calendar for years by insisting on in-person tests and it must find ways to make online tests valid and reliable.
“The Tribhuvan University is rigid in adapting to the new technology,” Basu Dev Kafle, a professor at the Tribhuvan University, told the Post. “The second wave of the coronavirus has shown the pandemic will be here for some time. How long can the university wait for the in-person tests.”
Bhandari said one of his friends after completing his bachelor’s degree from the Tribhuvan University flew to the United States for a master’s programme and has already enrolled for a PhD. “The pandemic didn’t spare the United States but the examinations there were held on time,” he said. “It is really frustrating that our university doesn’t care about the future of its students.”
Not just the master’s students but those pursuing bachelor’s degrees are suffering the same fate. Dev Jung Saud, 20, from Gulariya in Kanchanpur joined Bachelors of Arts programme majoring in Basic Research and Sociology in 2019 at Kanchanpur Multiple Campus in his home district. It’s been two years since he joined the college and he hasn’t taken a single test yet. “There are two batches of bachelor’s first year students awaiting tests,” he said. “I regret joining the Tribhuvan University where my one year has gone to waste for no reason.”