Fears and Furies of Online (Mis)education – Lockdown and Beyond: Maya John

Guest post by MAYA JOHN

Under the condition of lockdown while we are confronted with images and accounts of the suffering of the labouring poor, and all around us there appears to be a pervasive social chaos, in our universities students and teachers are supposed to return to an atomized life condition, and essentially pursue academic work as if all is normal. Teachers and students are expected to simply ignore wider public responsibilities and recoil to their private window to online teaching-learning. The diktats of university bureaucracies that have been issued in the midst of tremendous socio-economic crisis reduce teachers to a role akin to those of musicians who continued to entertain on the sinking Titanic. Now, after the formalities of so-called online education have been fulfilled, a specter of online examinations haunts the wider student community.

Disappearance of education in the online mode

The pronouncements of Delhi University (DU) regarding online examinations for its final year students of undergraduate and postgraduate (Masters) courses, have added to the anxieties of large number of students and teachers, who have been grappling with a disrupted semester in the wake of the lockdown, and the stupendous challenges of online teaching-learning. More or less, institutions of higher education across the country are facing this predicament. The grim situation warrants a close scrutiny of the concerns of teachers and students about e-learning and online examinations.

It is a fact that education as a process of passing on inherited accumulated knowledge, skill and wisdom to the next generation has always existed in some form or the other in all human societies, but examinations have not. It is only with the growing competition for the few seats in educational institutions and for the limited number of premium jobs that a distinct system of examinations evolved and became the tool for evaluating the so-called worth of a person. Drumming up this fact, university bureaucrats have been persistently projecting that if teachers fail to complete their syllabi through online teaching and if online examinations are not conducted then it is the students who will suffer. The so-called loss is largely being assessed in terms of the narrowing of prospects for students applying for higher education and for competitive government examinations. This ‘justification’ is being used to ram in the diktats of educational bureaucracies.

The fallout of this has been a significant amount of pressure being mounted on the teaching fraternity to try and run things as normal by adopting expansive methods of online teaching, using prescribed online apps, preparing and circulating e-resources, etc. Teachers have desperately tried to complete their syllabi through whatever means possible, despite many students struggling to cope with online learning. A lot of arbitrariness prevailed in so-called online teaching, with a majority of teachers simply distributing some notes periodically and giving out assignments. Very few could actually start online classes, and a majority of students could not be very receptive to online teaching for a variety of reasons.

Pushing aside the tangible apprehensions of teachers and students, university administrations have begun pushing through modalities for online examinations. Here it is important to note that the battle was already half lost with teachers’ unions not calling for the semester to be adjourned sine die. Powerful collective bodies of the teaching fraternity, such as the Federation of Central Universities Teachers Association (FEDCUTA) and Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) have failed to build any momentum and conclusive consensus on the need for teachers to steer clear of online teaching in the ensuing lockdown. The teaching fraternity’s acceptance of online teaching as an emergency measure has been nothing but a sliding, slippery slope, with teachers proving incapable of defending the rights of students, who now have online examinations thrust down their throats. There is now emerging realization of the fact that both incumbent and prospective batches of students will be victims of inadequate education in the e-learning mode.

In the current extraordinary situation educational bureaucracies, in the name of innovation, have projected e-learning as a viable substitute for completing the syllabi in educational institutions; ignoring of course the basic ground realities. The university system comprises of an extremely varied demographic profile of students; many of whom are battling disadvantages stemming from the axes of caste, class, gender, religion, linguistic, tribal, regional identities, or physical disabilities. A sizeable number of students of central universities are out-station students, who had left for their hometowns during the mid-semester break in early March. Stuck in their native places, they are now devoid of their books, notes, etc. and are struggling to cope. A significant section of students are locked down in regions where there are internet coverage issues. These include Kashmiri students, who have no access to broadband and 4G mobile internet due to the August 2019 censorship imposed by the Government of India on Kashmir. In the region of Kashmir, only 2G internet services have been allowed since January 2020, and Kashmiri students have thus been unable to connect to online classes or download books and other material given the poor state of internet services.

Moreover, there are numerous students who are completely handicapped by the lack of a smartphone and laptop. Even students who have smartphones have rightly pointed out that studying from these phones is nowhere comparable to working from a laptop, and many have also highlighted the severe strain on the eyes that long hours of reading/studying on smartphones has produced. This apart, there are many students who have had difficulty coping due to contingencies stemming from malfunctioning smartphones and laptops which they have been unable to repair during the lockdown, the inability to easily navigate new apps, among several other challenges. In an online survey conducted by a team led by Professor Vinod Pavarale and Professor Vasuki Belavadi from the Department of Communications, University of Hyderabad, to gather information regarding access to internet, gadgets and views of students on online classes, showed that the majority of the 2500 respondents felt that there are rampant problems with online education. Recently, one of the most premier colleges of Delhi University, Lady Sri Ram College, conducted a survey among its students, which revealed that even in a college where majority of the students come from affluent sections of society, the students found online learning tedious and were wary of the prospect of online examinations. Furthermore, the introduction of totally impractical online examinations makes one dread the consequences it would have on the socially and economically marginalized students who are concentrated in open and distance learning mode of various universities.

The stark lack of e-resources in Hindi for teachers to share with large numbers of Hindi-medium students is another crippling problem conveniently ignored by university bureaucrats. With literally no books to consult, how will they take an open book examination? There are in fact many students who come from poorer households where the sheer lack of physical space within their home disallows for quality, uninterrupted learning. One shudders to think at the thought of how they will struggle to write an open book examination, given their home environment. It is also necessary to factor in the special needs of students with physical disabilities, who do not have access to technology which supports extensive online learning, and instead, depend heavily on special resources and infrastructure provided within campuses of educational institutions. Likewise, we cannot overlook the specific obstacles faced by a large component of women students, who have had to increasingly share the burden of routine household chores in the ensuing lockdown.

In such a context, the growing talk of online examinations has only enhanced the individual level of anxiety and stress, particularly among the majority of students whose diverse household conditions do not support a suitable environment for self-study, and who invariably lack sufficient access to properly functional computers or smart phones. Without proper imparting of education through direct classroom teaching, evaluation of students’ learning through examinations – whether online or offline – will definitely translate into a fiasco. The irony is this – even if we come to accept that examinations are an intrinsic part of evaluating the learning of students, when there is no proper education imparted, how can we even think of any form of evaluation, let alone online examination?! In conditions of inadequate learning, such as during the ensuing lockdown, any evaluation would just be farcical and enactment of a mere bureaucratic formality. Are we also supposed to ignore the fact that in the midst of all the socio-economic and biological crises, an average student is not even in the mental or physical frame to pursue studies? Indeed, why should we assume that continuing education in a situation like this is the priority of an average student?

Education is being presumed to have been imparted these past weeks and now the scam of examinations is unfolding. Following the release of the “UGC Guidelines on Examinations and Academic Calendar for the Universities in View of COVID-19 Pandemic and Subsequent Lockdown” (April 2020), the administrations of Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University have latched onto the recommendation for open book examinations in the online mode. Such decisions have been taken despite the ambivalence of the UGC committee itself on the question of the modalities of examinations. The open book examination (OBE) in DU has created a furor; especially considering how a large numbers of students who have been struggling with internet and other technology-related issues are being expected to make themselves available at a specific time and date to receive the question paper online, upload their answer sheets, among many other tedious procedures.[1] The digital divide among students, i.e. the differential or no access to technologies that support online teaching-learning and online examinations, will simply further reproduce inequalities already present within student communities.

The contrasting socio-economic conditions from which students come, and their differential learning capacities can only be properly addressed through teaching, learning environment and socialization nurtured in real classrooms, and not through teaching on virtual platforms. Direct classroom teaching creates a public space in which understanding can grow through collective participation of diverse individuals and groups. In contrast, e-learning tends to shift the entire burden of education on the individual, isolates the learners from a real public space, and makes them overtly dependent on digital technology and gadgets that are synced to homogenized modules of learning, and indeed of knowledge itself. E-learning is an obvious part of the project for growing commercialization of education and drastic cutting of government funds for education. While successive governments have tenaciously pursued such policies,[2] the current Government, in a more aggressive vein, is freely collaborating with the corporate sector to facilitate privatization of education at breakneck speed. Its actions of facilitating the growth of private universities, expanding e-learning and creating a profitable education market for corporate producers of digital technology and gadgets are winning accolades from a section of mainstream media owned by big corporate houses.

The margins strike back: the perils of ignoring the growth of distance education

Ironically, this unfolding crisis appears as a mirror image of a long-standing crisis already brewing in the margins of the university system. In a country that continues to be ridden with distinct social and economic inequalities, education is being seen by many as a tool for moving up the social ladder. In this context, aspirations for higher education have steadily grown, and this is reflected in the increase in student enrollment in universities during the past decade. According to the AISHE Report 2018-2019, the gross enrollment ratio in higher education has increased from 21.5% in 2012-13 to 25.80% in 2017-18. However, the majority of this enhanced enrollment has been concentrated in the open and distance learning (ODL) mode. In a university like DU alone, over one lakh students enroll in the School of Open Learning (SOL) every year. In fact, SOL, which was started in 1962, has been the mainstay of higher education in Delhi with over 65% students of DU enrolled in it. This large figure has been noted even before the increase in the last decade (Pokhriyal, 2008).[3] There are nearly 279 institutions across India, which provide education in ODL format. This includes IGNOU – a leviathan with 28 lakh students enrolled; many state-level open universities (SOUs); and correspondence course institutes (CCIs) in the conventional dual mode universities[4] that include premier central universities like University of Delhi, University of Hyderabad, Jamia Millia Islamia University, Aligarh Muslim University, University of Allahabad, University of Madras, Punjab University.

This apart, the current Central government has been pushing forward with distance learning, using channels like the Swayam portal to host Mass Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that are purportedly meant to make education accessible to the larger masses. The model is borrowed from the Euro-American context. Nonetheless, in the US itself where general access to newer technology is much higher, e-learning brought graduation rates down to one-eighth of regular classroom courses.[5] In India, of course, the introduction of online courses will become the great Indian institutionalized drop-out story. Importantly, MOOCs have been in existence for some time now, with many faculty of higher education institutions (HEIs) being roped in to prepare these courses. MOOCs are being actively pushed into the forefront by linking it to the career advancement or promotions of university teachers. As per the most recent UGC notifications, the preparation of MOOCs for the Swayam portal has been provided as an option in lieu of actual attendance in a refresher course which is required for promotion in the teaching promotion.

Such ‘open online’ courses are seen by policy-makers as a way of minimizing the Government’s expenditure on education, and further opening up the education sector to private capital. It is not a coincidence that these courses are being launched whilst the Government is steadily decreasing funds in the higher education sector. Neither is it a coincidence that in the intense competition for the limited seats in public-funded universities, it is the more deprived students from poorly-run government schools and small B-grade private schools who are excluded, and are consequently pushed into pursuing such petty online courses. It is nothing short of a farce that the poorest of the poor students who most need face-to-face teaching and access to the best educational resources so as to overcome their inherited disadvantages in schooling, home environment, etc. are basically shown the door and pushed down the path of self-study when they seek entry into higher education. This bitter reality is well encapsulated in the tongue-in-cheek suggestion of the radical educational theorist, Ira Shor, that college applications should ignore the qualifying test scores altogether and just ask students to enter their family income. The results would be the same because, with relatively few exceptions, the same people (from comparatively affluent backgrounds and better schooling) would get admitted into college.

At present educationalists who are concerned about the recent boost in e-learning need to engage with the longer trend of its institutionalization within the hierarchical university system. The current vocal opposition to online teaching-learning is a welcome development, but one can no longer afford to blinker out the fact that online teaching is/has been equivalent to open and distance mode learning offered by our universities for years now. Indeed, can one sustain the critique and opposition to online teaching-learning without bringing to the forefront the miseries of the ODL mode? It is then crucial to expose the façade of education that has been imparted through MOOCs and the ODL mode way before the lockdown.

Let us begin with the social profile of the students who are caught in the margins of the university system and are dependent on e-resources/study material provided by ODL institutions. By and large, the ODL mode comprises of students from socially vulnerable and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. For instance, in IGNOU there has been a continuous rise in the number of SC and ST students who enroll with the University.[6] Similarly, majority of the students in Delhi University’s SOL centres are SC/ST/OBC/Minority category students. Despite this fact, the UGC channelizes no funding for ODL institutions, such as SOL, which in turn contributes to the ill-equipped functioning of ODL institutions. DU SOL might be the biggest model of proxy private education under the garb of a government institution. Since July 1997, SOL has received no financial assistance or maintenance grant from any government institution. With zero financial contribution from UGC, the large establishment of SOL runs on the tuition fees collected from the poorest of poor students. Even the salaries and pensions of SOL directors, principals, teachers and administrative staff are paid through the money collected from students.[7]

It is the sheer lack of seats in regular colleges that has made scores of students dependent on the poorly-run ODL mode. There is a popular misconception that students opt for the ODL mode not out of compulsion but choice; a presumption that smacks of victim blaming. Recent surveys among ODL students have shown that majority of these students, given the choice, would have opted for regular colleges.[8] These students bear the brunt of the country’s dual education model, wherein poorly-funded and ill-equipped government schools coexist with private schools; essentially putting up education for sale, such that those who can afford quality education simply purchase it through private schooling and expensive coaching centres. From substandard government schools, a vast number of the country’s youth step into substandard university education in the ODL mode. Here they are condemned to learn and complete the syllabus with just a handful of sessions of Personal Contact Program (PCP), and without quality, peer-reviewed e-resources/study material.

In other words, while students from better educational backgrounds are made to complete their syllabus in regular colleges through 180 days of direct classroom teaching, students with a background of poor schooling are expected to complete their university syllabus within less than 20 PCP sessions! Many among the latter are first generation learners and a large section are actually products of distance learning imparted at the school level through institutions like the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). In places like Delhi, recent changes in the criterion for admission to classes 10 to 12 in government schools have resulted in the flushing out of so-called under-performing students; compelling their families to enroll them in NIOS. Needless to say, such changes are the fallout of the prized Right to Education (RTE) policy, which erroneously restricts free, compulsory educational access only up to the age of 14 years or basically up to the upper primary level. Unfortunately, many critics of the current education policy tend to oppose enhanced privatization of higher education while remaining either supportive of the dual education model in schooling or silent on the issue. It is nevertheless important to recognize that the very nature of RTE allows enough room for governments to field exclusionary measures with relative ease. In line with such exclusion, the Delhi government’s desperate efforts to project better class 10 and class 12 Board Examination results of government school students – irrespective of the continuing poor condition of majority of its schools – has fuelled detrimental changes in the admission criterion to the senior secondary level; pushing scores of weak, less privileged students into NIOS. Clearly then, for poorer students stuck in the endless trap of distance learning, the entire process – from schooling to higher education – constitutes as nothing but an educational apartheid.

Apart from inadequate PCP sessions, ODL students are also saddled with study material/e-resources of pathetic quality. The objectionable quality of e-resources/study material and their inadequacy in facilitating any quality self-study recently won the limelight when DU SOL imposed the semester mode along with the Choice-Based Credit System (CBCS) on its 1.5 lakh first-year undergraduate students in August 2019. Not only were the students taken by surprise – as the majority had sought admission in July 2019 on the basis of the annual mode with its older syllabi – but they were subsequently left ill-prepared to meet the requirements of the end-of-semester, i.e. December examination, and internal assessment stipulated under CBCS.[9] This arbitrary imposition of CBCS-semesterization was fiercely resisted by majority of SOL students. While the unambiguous genuineness of their issues was recognized by the Delhi High Court in its November 2019 ruling,[10] despite repeated letters of appeal sent by SOL activists to the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA), the teachers’ collective body remained shamefully silent and refused to issue even a press statement in solidarity with the struggling students. So much for the DUTA’s tall claims of opposing semesterization and CBCS in Delhi University!

Some illustrations of what gets passed off as e-learning/study material are worth mentioning. The quality of the study material is scandalous to say the least. For instance, in the study material provided for the paper “Western Political Thought” of the B.A. Political Science (Hons) course, the name of the German philosopher Karl Marx was misspelled as Marks! In the study material for the paper “Political Process in India” which was assigned to first-year students of B.A. (Hons.) Political Science, serious discrepancies were visible in terms of faulty pagination, faulty chapterization, provision of factually wrong information, faulty translation of Hindi study material, lack of information on the author who compiled the material, and of course, repetitive grammatical errors. On p.28-29 of this paper’s study material, the following passage is worth noting (errors are highlighted):

It does not allow discrimination on the hands of state [sic] on the basis of people’s religious beliefs…Sometimes, the ides [sic] of secularism practised even go beyond the constitutional vision which creates tensions…The western notion of secularism is different from what Indian secularism [sic]…Thomas Pantham in Indian Secularism and its critics: Some Reflections [sic], states that…The word secularism was not included in the Indian Constitution, neither did the founder [sic] fathers explicitly define the term…

Likewise on p.40 in the same paper’s study material, we find the following error in spelling: ‘Jawahar Lal [sic] Nehru and Subhas Chandra Boss [sic], the two stalwarts…’ In another paper, “Constitutional Government and Democracy in India” of the B.A. (Hons) Political Science Course, on p.3 of the study material we come across the following phrase “devide [sic] and rule”. Large portions of the same paper’s study material seem to have been cut and pasted from another source. The plagiarism is so evident that even the underlining made by the so-called author of the material has not been removed! Similarly, we see obnoxious translation reflected in the Hindi-medium study material uploaded on the SOL website (E-Pustakdwar School of Open Learning) for the B.A. Program paper “History of India: from the Earliest Time to 300 CE”. The faulty translation begins with the very title of the paper. The Hindi translation of the paper’s title “History of India: from the Earliest Time to 300 CE” is “Bharat ka Itihaas Jald se Jald toc. 300 CE Tak” [sic]! In the same material, the phrase Sangam Age (referring to the period from the 6th century BCE to c. 3rd century CE) has been translated as Sangam Ayu [sic]! Not surprisingly, DU’s regular colleges’ teachers have rarely given SOL study material any weight, and have refrained from prescribing it to their regular mode students.

Apart from the substandard study material of majority of ODL institutions, rampant discrimination is also evident when we consider the manner in which universities conduct the examinations of the ODL mode. Delayed examinations and evaluation; un-moderated evaluation which further contributes to poor results; and the resulting delay in acquiring the final examination certificate, typically characterize the ODL examination system. In DU SOL the pervasive practice of delayed results has meant that a large number of the University’s ODL mode students have literally lost a year after their final year examination. Without their examinations results, they are prevented from applying for further higher studies, and have often had difficulty in securing better-paying jobs.

For a few weeks, regular mode students have tasted the bitter pill of e-learning, lack of direct classroom teaching and delayed external examinations which lakhs of ODL mode students (many of whom are first generation learners) have been struggling with. In certain ways, this exceptional moment is akin to the return of the repressed; revealing the stark class-bias of the existing trade union movement of university teachers and ossified ‘Left’ student organizations. It is an undeniable fact that scores of guest teachers employed by ODL institutions like SOL and the Non-Collegiate Women’s Education Board (NCWEB) of Delhi University represent the most vulnerable segment of the teaching community. For example, they have always been paid their salaries with inexplicable delay and have been saddled with unmanageable numbers of students in their PCP sessions. However, their issues continue to be sidestepped by teachers’ unions like the DUTA. Likewise, since the SOL students do not form an electoral constituency due to the stringent guidelines of the Lyngdoh Commission, the issues of this 4 lakh-strong student body find no space in the politics of the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU), or in the politics of so-called Left students’ groups that have preoccupied themselves with the concerns of regular mode students who participate in DUSU elections. For these students’ groups doing politics among regular colleges like St. Stephen’s, Lady Sri Ram, Miranda House, Hindu, Kirorimal, etc. has the desired signaling effect, not the issues of working-class and lower middle class youth of SOL. Of course, DU SOL students have not been mute spectators to this educational apartheid. A silver lining can be seen in the radical movements erupting from within their ranks.[11]

‘Atmanirbharta’ in education: using lockdown as a launch pad for New Education Policy 2020

While the majority of the labouring poor have contributed their labour to the running of the economy and creating wealth and affluence for the upper classes, it is they who have borne the disproportionate brunt of the unprecedented crisis. For them the Government’s relief package remains a complete hoax. On 12 May, PM Narendra Modi proclaimed that the stimulus package announced by the Finance Minister would lead to growing self-reliance (atmanirbharta) for Indians. For the majority of Indians, this simply meant that they have to fend for themselves. The logic of this atmanirbharta was duly extended to the education sector that was already reeling under gross inequalities structurally built into it. The Union Finance Minister’s announcements on 17 May, detailing the final tranche of the Rs.20 lakh-crore COVID relief package, reflected clearly what lies in store. The Minister’s pronouncements made it amply clear that the Government will actively facilitate the top 100 universities and ‘institutes of eminence’ to start running online degree courses without any prior approvals. These HEIs are encouraged to collaborate with private tech-providers in a public-private partnership format, which is a provision spelt out in the New Education Policy (NEP), 2020, under the program named National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT).[12]

In a sinister vein, the current dispensation is using the crisis of pandemic-cum-lockdown to roll out various provisions of an education policy which has not even been deliberated in the Indian Parliament to this day. Moreover, this should also be seen in the context of the long-standing orientation of successive governments to invite private investments in higher education. In the past few decades a consensus has been gradually emerging among the major corporates of India and the world, which are eager to earn profits through investment in the education sector. Further, inclusion of education in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is indicative of how the ruling elite of different countries are reaching a consensus on the need to further the scope of profitable investment by domestic and global corporates in the education sector.

Grabbing the lockdown period as a launching pad for National Education Policy, the MHRD, UGC and various university administrations are making e-learning an integral component of university education. This is evident in the recommendations tabled by the Professor R.C. Kuhad Committee constituted by the UGC to examine academic concerns stemming from the lockdown. In its April 2020 report, the Committee stated that the Covid-19-induced imposition of digital learning and evaluation is part of the design to ensure that 25% of the academic workload will be handled online from now onwards! This current promotion of e-learning has basically acted upon the already prevailing mood of top-level bureaucrats and corporate lobbies, and has active support of PM Narendra Modi himself. On 1 May, the Prime Minister whilst commenting on the so-called reforms needed in the education sector emphasized the need to promote online classes, education portals and school education through dedicated education TV channels.

With e-learning steadily becoming a paradigmatic policy discourse, there is a palpable fear among a section of teachers and students that a format of teaching-learning which was pursued under extraordinary circumstances might become the new normal in the near future. Needless to say, the threat that was looming large in the margins of the university system is now increasingly getting generalized.

The disrupted teaching-learning process has brought mainstream university communities uncomfortably close to the educational crisis in ODL institutions, which has been continuously sidelined by the majority of university democrats. Whether the interests of current students and teachers in the regular mode will be swept aside or not, it is high time the teaching fraternity and progressive students’ groups recognize that they represent a sinking island in a sea of inequality, discrimination and broken dreams. As someone has aptly stated, “The chain is no stronger than its weakest link”. The sooner we realize this, the better.


[1] The 18.05.2020 letter of the Dean, Examinations, University of Delhi, to all the Deans of various Faculties and to Heads of Departments, ironically claims that the open book examination is “not an online mode” examination, and then proceeds in the very next sentence to state that “there will be requirement of minimal internet connectivity and any latest phone will serve the purpose [of downloading and uploading]” (emphasis added).

[2] For a critical overview of the elitist education policies post-1947, which have continued to reproduce marked inequalities along the lines of class, caste, gender, region, etc., see Maya John (2012), “Critiquing Reforms in Higher Education: Understanding the ‘Education Question’ in India”, Social Scientist, 41(7/8), 49-67.

[3] H.C. Pokhriyal (2008), “Governance of Open and Distance learning in a Dual-mode University: A case study of the University of Delhi, India”, [Online: web] Accessed 15 Oct. 2019 URL: https://wikieducator.org › images › PID_732. Pokhriyal was the Executive Director of the School of Open Learning (SOL) for more than a decade and was responsible for many of its mismangements.

[4] Dual mode refers to a structure of education where both regular and ODL modes of learning are imparted. Many central universities, which run regular and ODL courses, are referred to as dual mode universities for the above-stated purpose.

[5] For this fact, I thank Dr. Debaditya Bhattacharya of Kazi Nazrul University, Burdwan, West Bengal.

[6] Manash P. Gohain (2019), “In 9 yrs, number of SC students at Ignou rose by 248%, STs by 172%”, [Online: web] Accessed 15 Oct. 2019 URL: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/in-9-yrs-number-of-sc-students-at-ignou-rose-by-248-sts-by-172/articleshow/71572573.cms.

[7] Based on information provided to an RTI application, dated 27 January 2020, Ref. SOL/PIO/2020/05.

[8] Information based on the survey conducted by Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS) among DU SOL students of the batches of 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.

[9]  After a massive struggle of DU SOL students and a court case in Delhi High Court, the DU authorities were forced to relent and postpone the December 2019 examinations. The University was also forced to concede on many other demands of the students. The University was directed to make expansive preparations in line with CBCS and to conduct the first and second semester examinations together in May-June 2020. With the lockdown, DU SOL authorities have desisted from communicating anything so far.

[10] Delhi H.C. Order, dated 21 November, 2019 in writ petition (civil) 11800/2019, p. 5.

[11] Apart from the issue of forceful imposition of CBCS-semester system, there have been consistent and radical struggles by SOL students on issues such as the lack of study centres for PCP sessions, inadequacies of the study material provided, delayed examination results, lack of a properly constituted Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to look into sexual harassment complaints, etc. The radical working-class youth organization, Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS), is the sole student group seen struggling for their issues.

[12] Interestingly, in DU SOL there already existed a long trend of self-financed courses that have been run in active collaboration with private companies.


The author teaches in University of Delhi, is an activist, and wants to acknowledge the valuable assistance of student-activists Md. Bilal and Harish Gautam in formulating the arguments. She can be contacted on maya.john85@gmail.com


2 thoughts on “Fears and Furies of Online (Mis)education – Lockdown and Beyond: Maya John”

  1. Dear Maya, this is a very insightful write up on the state of higher education in DU, the administrators of DU, the manner in which decisions are taken, considerations in such decision making, the role of teacher and student unions, the state of students of Open Learning, so on and so forth. How the concerns of the poor and marginalized, still first time learners in higher education have been ignored. I just want to point that students with disabilities a large number of whom come from poor families missed, also need attention of decision makers. Thanks.


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