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Can Students Move To Online Examinations For The Second Wave Of Covid-19?

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It is now official that Pakistan is in the grip of the second wave of the Coronavirus. And many medical professionals have warned that the second wave will be more infectious and devastating than the previous one. With many officials pointing to 1,000+ cases everyday and rising, the response of the government has been lethargic at best. Most officials remain in denial on whether there is such a danger. Due to this lack of clarity and due to the extravagant declarations of victory, the people of Pakistan have also started treating the virus as a distant memory.

There is a growing lack of care of at public places and public congregations, as people nonchalantly prepare for large scale weddings and events that are sure to aid in spreading the virus. The upcoming district and provincial bar elections are sure to be a populated affair which will see the risk of a mass spread increase many times. The government remains oblivious to these obvious flashpoints that will grow to be a web that could well end up spreading the disease in every district of the country.

The current government has portrayed itself as the voice of the youth and has boasted of having a young electorate as its support base. Yet it seems that this support base remains an afterthought, as students all across Pakistan are forced to attend classes and examinations without proper care in place. In the coming days, the country will witness examinations ranging from college and university level to competitive examinations like those for the judiciary, Provincial Management and Civil Services. These young hopefuls will number in the tens of thousands and will be forced to huddle together in examination halls which are neither ventilated nor housed with trained staff that can provide the proper care required to ensure safety measures are taken in view of the pandemic.

Many countries which are suffering from the Coronavirus have taken progressive steps to protect the young future of their country. One such measure was online testing where the student candidates were to take their examination from home rather than from test centres. Roger Johnson, Language Cert’s Chair for the Advisory Council, is on record having stated,
“I also think that in the fullness of time, there’ll be a situation where doing tests online will indeed be the norm.”

Online testing is a growing method of testing the candidate from home rather than endangering them by bringing them to examination centers which will threaten not only the students but also the examination staff itself.

Many have argued against online testing and declared that these examinations are insecure and prone to students using unfair means. This is misinformation at best, since the countries which implemented the system have done so in a professional and secure way to prevent malpractices. The have applied some of the following principles to protect the integrity of exams themselves:

1. Share screen with the Proctor
2. Auto-device lockdown
3. Proctoring from plagiarism
4. Auto-shuffling of questions
5. Preparing exams with complete preparedness

They have also used methods such as creating a question bank and having the system randomly generate a question paper for each individual candidate. This is done by various online examination universities and this way no two students are assured of having the same question paper – allowing for a more secure testing environment and it will also save the hassle of making several question papers. Many foreign universities have also focused on Student Data and previous data stored as a means to gauge the performance and actions of students during examinations. Online examination also provides more flexibility in testing as it allows for a hassle-free schedule for testing which can, thanks to the question bank, be set for days for various groups of students – subject to a stable network connection.

Online examination will also answer one of the growing grievances of students that the examiner does not read the answer sheet and is focused more on presentation rather than content, allowing for ridiculous answers to be given a passing mark due to them being written in a calligraphic manner.

Pakistani students have already suffered dearly from the Coronavirus. From the mismanagement of universities to the callous attitude of the state in making sure they have their ‘win’, the students have been ignored and now they are being sent to a place from where the risk of them getting the virus will increase exponentially. Meanwhile, the world of education is advancing at a rapid pace and is bringing in new ideas and fresh solutions.

Pakistan must make sure that it does not find itself left behind as the world advances to a new reality. The government of Pakistan has already to answer for some of its poorly managed policies at the start of the year. In facing this second wave of the pandemic, the current administration must stop dragging its feet – especially when it comes to safeguarding the young future of Pakistan.

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Naya Daur