• Friday, Nov 27, 2020
  • Last Update : 04:54 pm

Inevitable session jam looms over public universities

  • Published at 05:13 pm October 24th, 2020
Dhaka University DU- Syed Zakir Hossain/DT
File photo of Curzon Hall, Dhaka University Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

VCs want uniform online exam method

The unparalleled disruption to the academic calendar due to the Covid-19 pandemic means an inevitable session jam is now looming over the public universities of Bangladesh, much to the concern of students across the country.

Dhaka Tribune reached out to the vice-chancellors of around 10 public universities, all of whom said the session jam would set students back at least six months, but could stretch to over a year.

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) was among the first universities of the country to begin online classes and to have already prepared for online examinations to avoid a session jam. The Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) in Sylhet is in the process of preparing online examinations and has signed an agreement with the Access to Information (a2i) program under the ICT Division.

However, sources from other universities said they were content with just taking online classes and postponing exams until the institutions can be fully reopened. They also said most teachers and students do not want campuses to be reopened until a Covid-19 vaccine is available.

Public universities have received support to implement full-phase online academic facilities from the Ministry of Education and the University Grants Commission (UGC). 

Students at medical colleges affiliated with public universities and four medical universities are attending classes and plan to hold practical exams from October.

According to UGC data, over 800,000 students are now studying at 46 public universities.  

UGC member, Prof Dil Afroza Begum, said: “UGC will sit with all the VCs in November to open discussions on reducing the session jam.”

VCs want uniform online exam method

The authorities of four leading public universities - Dhaka University, Chittagong University, Jahangirnagar University, and Rajshahi University - said they are not interested in conducting online exams during the pandemic.    

Dhaka University VC, Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman, told Dhaka Tribune they would only conduct online classes. 

“It is not possible to hold exams during the pandemic under the existing rules for universities. If any university wants to hold exams, then there needs to be a uniform method that other universities can follow as well. Unilateral decisions cannot be taken,” he added. 

Rajshahi University VC, Prof M Abdus Sobhan, said: “We are taking steps to publish results of exams that are done, but we cannot hold exams for the current academic session without a government decision. The government would need to bring all the universities under a uniform exam method.” 

Jahangirnagar University VC, Farzana Islam, said the Academic Council only permitted online classes, not online exams, but a committee has been formed to take a decision on examinations.

Chittagong University VC, Shireen Akhter, said It is not possible at this time to hold a meeting of the Academic Council to decide on exams. 

Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) VC, Prof Farid Uddin Ahmed, said: “We have signed an agreement with a2i and they have a platform where classes and exams can be taken accurately. Teachers have already been trained in this regard.”

He added that exams would only be held after approval from the Academic Council and government.

Buet exam in January, not counted in CGPA

Daiyan Nafis, a student of mechanical engineering at Buet, said the university authorities have already announced that online exams will be held in January.

The exams will be graded as “satisfactory” or “fail” instead of the usual grading system, and scores will not be counted towards the students’ cumulative grade point average (CGPA), he added.

Prof Satya Prasad Majumder, VC of Buet, said: “We have to try to provide all kinds of facilities so that students can complete their academic session and avoid a session jam.” 

DMC sets exams for October 28

Dhaka Medical College (DMC) will hold the supplementary examination of two batches that failed the examinations in November and December last year on October 28, according to DMC Principal Prof Khan Abul Kalam Azad.

The non Covid-19 section of the medical college has been prepared with patients so that the authorities can take the examinations of students, he added.

The Dhaka Tribune has learned that other medical colleges have made similar preparations, but some of the academic sessions at all medical colleges are not participating in online classes to finish their syllabus. 

National university lags 

NU VC, Prof Harun-ur-Rashid, says they have ensured quality education and the engagement of all students and 15,000 teachers, online.

“We have already taken 17,500 classes on zoom and are also preparing for taking exams,” he said. 

However, students said they have been unable to participate in most classes due to poor Internet facilities and lack of devices with which to attend online classes.

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