BENGALURU: Rows of tables and chairs, a ticking clock, and the fast-paced scratching of pens on paper. This is what a typical exam scene looked like before the coronavirus pandemic. But as homes double as classrooms, schools are having to gear up for hurdle after hurdle.
Priya K (name changed), a parent of a class 6 student in Greenwood High, explains what the exam process looks like now: “Each teacher is allotted a small number of students to invigilate. Before the exam starts, each student has to show the teacher the surroundings of the room to prove that they are alone and no study material is lying open. The teacher uses Microsoft Teams to invigilate and another platform is used to display the question paper.”
She continues, “During the first exam, there was a stressful moment when my child couldn’t scan the QR code to submit the answers. But his teacher helped him since I wasn’t allowed to be in the room.”
The pandemic has proved to be a testing time not just for students and parents but educators as well, as they navigate new avenues to conduct exams. Aloysius D’Mello, principal of Greenwood High, explains that for primary students, they are carrying out objective assessments through Google forms, whereas for higher classes, they rely on MS Teams and Exam.net to conduct the digital exams.
An exam coordinator and D’Mello himself make virtual rounds of the online classrooms. “The students just need to know that there is someone keeping a watch. We assured parents that in case of power or internet problems, they can write to us,” says D’Mello, adding that they did face a few instances wherein parents tried to nudge a young ward towards the right answer, and had to counsel the parent.
Agrees Simran Khatwani, who son studies in Class 8 in Sindhi High School. She believes some onus lies on the parents as well. “My son’s unit tests were all multiple choice questions, which made the process simple,” she says.
Some believe these novel times call for a rehaul of the examination system. After all, how accurate a measure are they? The same thought led Canadian International School to focus more on project-based learning. “This is where student agency comes into play, where they take charge of their own learning. We try to make the curriculum more interesting, and once that interest develops, they learn faster,” says MD Shweta Sastri.
While the school is yet to decide about the nature of their end-term exams in December, they are currently using projects as an assessment tool.
“Every two weeks we send our students a home learning kit with supplies. For example, for a grade 6 science class, students could do simple experiments at home with the items in the kit,” she explains, adding that the teachers were also made to go through “professional training” sessions from June to August to help with remote learning and project-based learning.
Meena Venugopal, the mother of a class 5 student of Inventure Academy, says issues like power outages, internet glitches and technical issues, if any, could cause stress in online exams. The school is yet to inform parents about their plan for holding examinations.
“Wouldn’t it be better to give it a rest this year?,” she asks. Not everyone, however, holds that view. “Technical issues aside, online exams can actually be less stressful for children,” says Priya. “In a traditional setup, students have long discussions before and after an exam that can cause anxiety. Moreover, the child has much more time to prepare for the next day’s paper,” she adds.