Bhubaneswar: The Rourkela-based Biju Patnaik Technical University (BPUT) has assigned a private firm with an alleged dubious track record to conduct online exams for the final semester for around 25,000 students in various courses.
BPUT’s Director of Examinations, Dr Deepak Kumar Sahoo, confirmed that the Hyderabad-based Coempt Eduteck Private Limited, earlier known as Globarena, has been the varsity’s examination partner since 2015 and it will provide online exam services this year.
Even though the university had earlier suspended all examinations in the 137 colleges affiliated to it due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Odisha government decided to conduct multiple-choice type online exams for final semester students. This was because the majority of these students will need degrees for pursuing higher studies or for joining their workplaces.
“The state government has decided to give an opportunity to final-year students keeping prospective jobs or further studies in mind. Home computer-based online open-book examinations with innovative outcome-based questions will be conducted for final year students. Those who cannot appear in these exams can opt for offline exams to be conducted in a regular manner as and when the colleges reopen,” Dr Sahoo was quoted as saying by NewsClick.
He further informed that the university has identified examination centres in various districts for students who cannot appear in the tests from their homes.
According to a report published in NewsClick, the Hyderabad-based Globe Arena, which had changed its name to Coempt Eduteck Private Limited last year, was allegedly blacklisted by the Telangana government for goofing up in an exam-related service outsourced to it in 2019.
The company was hired by the Telangana State Board of Intermediate Education to conduct exam enrolment and for processing results for Classes X and XII students.
Approximately three lakh of the around nine lakh students who appeared in the examinations from Telangana had failed. It led to a spate of suicides by students who felt they had been wrongly assessed. Re-evaluations of certain answer sheets revealed gross errors by the private firm.
A Times of India (TOI) report in April 2019 said that the state, however, decided to use the services of the same firm for conducting re-verification, re-counting and advanced supplementary examinations even after a three-member expert committee confirmed that technical goof-ups by it.
Education secretary B Janardhan Reddy had then told TOI: “We are yet to take a decision on what action will be taken against the company. We might withhold its fee (no amount has been released so far) or even blacklist it…for now, the firm is not being shunted out.”
In June 2019, ABVP activists staged a protest in front of the Telangana State Board of Intermediate Education (TSBIE) office in Nampally alleging that the government must sack the secretary for mismanagement of the Intermediate results, which eventually led to the suicide of 23 students. Besides, Rs 50 lakh compensation to all the families that have lost their children post the results, they demanded that Globarena Technologies be blacklisted, a report published in the New Indian Express said.
In December 2019, Telangana Board of Intermediate Education finally decided against using Globarena’s software to process data and results for the Intermediate Public Examination (IPE) in 2020.
The firm was also booked by Telangana police on a complaint lodged by Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University-Kakinada for criminal breach of trust and cheating and also dragged to court for its lapses.
It had then obtained a ‘Not to Arrest’ order from the HC. “There is no stay on investigation and we have recorded statements of former vice-chancellor and registrar. The key allegation is that Globarena violated the MoU and delivered poor content after taking Rs 20 crore fee,” Sarpavaram police station inspector Govind Raj had told the media.
Now, this controversial firm is in charge of conducting the final semester exams for BPUT through “Artificial Intelligence Proctored Platform along with Manual Proctoring (Supervisor/Invigilation)”. BPUT had issued a notification in this regard on June 27.
The online exams were announced despite students clamouring for final semester results to be declared through a “normalisation” process in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘Normalisation’ is where students’ performances are evaluated by calculating the average marks obtained in previous semesters, along with marks secured in internal assessments in the last semester.
Students who will appear for the examinations are enrolled in courses including engineering, architecture, pharmacy and business administration. The online examination process will kick off from July 1 with the launch of trial and mock tests for Principals and teachers in-charge of all affiliated and constituent colleges of BPUT.
However, students have launched a social media campaign titled #BPUTStopKaroNa in a bid to convince the university authorities to cancel the exams.
The students have argued that a number of their batch-mates had even left their books behind while vacating the hostels at short notice following the lockdown announcement. The lack of books, the students said, will not help them in an open-book examination system, adding to the fact that they are not well-versed with the multiple-choice format.