The woes and misery of a pandemic examinee
The COVID-19 pandemic has slithered its way into every aspect of our lives, not even sparing its deadly grasp over education. One may argue that education is one of the rare things that have continued despite the abject circumstances, but only a student understands truly how difficult it has been to cope up.
From school-going children to students pursuing their masters, people from various age groups have been suffering the plight of being a pandemic examinee. To add to the misery, this predicament is not only limited to tutelage, but rather expands to several other related aspects.
Missing out on campus life
Campus life is an essential part of one's university tenure. Despite all the trouble one has to go through including the failures, mental breakdowns, and adrenaline rush from missed deadlines, at the end of the day, the memories and bonds created within the campus make everything worthwhile.
However, the transition to online education snatched this opportunity from students. "I dearly miss the ranting sessions with friends after giving a horrible exam. It was only during the pandemic that I realised how important a part of the learning process it was, where we would learn from our mistakes through meaningful discussions," said Marzia, a master's student.
A difficult transition
Last year when the world came to a standstill, we were compelled to bring rapid changes to our system and quickly adjust to the novelty of the situation. While the current generation of students may be tech-savvy, not everyone is capable enough to afford the necessary devices.
This sentiment is echoed by several students, including Genelia, a third-year university student, who said, "My sister and I share one laptop to attend classes, thus we have to pick times based on that. We make it work but it gets difficult during exams, and we are still struggling to afford a second device."
On the other hand, students who returned to their hometown face severe connection problems due to limited bandwidth. This hampers the practice of maintaining a level playing field while conducting live online exams, as people in urban areas have an upper hand in this case.
Pre and post exam stress
The notion that online exam is a privilege since students have the luxury to sit for exams from the comfort of their homes is a misconception. Although there is some truth to this statement, online exams are a thrilling roller coaster ride. It is an elaborate process involving pre and post exam stress.
Sitting for exams in a classroom setting is stressful on its own, but online exams escalated that to a whole new level. One has to prepare not only for the exam, but is also expected to be geared with backup devices and Internet. Yet, the constant thought of losing internet connection amidst the exam haunts the examinee.
"The fear of losing Internet connection, or worse, not being able to submit within the allotted time adds up to the already tense condition of my mind, which adversely contributes towards my overall performance. Adding to that, I have no way of knowing if my paper was actually submitted," shared Tamim, an eighth grader.
Health and wellbeing in shambles
As continuing online education came to the forefront, health priorities took a back seat. This has undeniably taken a toll on physical health. With prolonged hours of being seated without much movement combined with a sudden increase in screen-time, the most common complaints of students are about headache, backache, and deteriorating vision.
Additionally, students' mental health is being adversely affected. "With everything that is going around, I feel reluctant to even function normally. Online exams may be seen as a comfort but one must take into account that being bound within the walls of one's home for months takes a toll on our health," explained Faiza, a public university student.
It is especially tough for people suffering from anxiety. For many, the level of anxiousness increases as time ticks away nearing submission. "Once, with mere minutes left to turn in, my hands started shaking vigorously and my mind stopped functioning, and as a result I missed the deadline," sighed Afrida, a final-year student.
Time versus knowledge
The onset of online examinations introduced a new arsenal of assessment tools. Lengthy assignments stretching several pages substituted an hour-long exam, and authenticity of the paper being verified via viva only adds to the stress. Moreover, grading tools have altered to suit the needs of the situation, with one form of assessment holding an unjustified amount of weight.
"With the insane amount of pressure burdened on our shoulders, everything is so overwhelming and happening at a pace that even the strongest individuals fail to conquer. And with the absurd amount of work forced upon us, it soon became a race of time, not to mention the unrealistic time-frame set to complete these tasks," stated Fahim, a fresher.
Race to the bottom
The darker side to this scenario is the ongoing trend of "outsourcing" assignments. As unethical as it sounds, it is the bitter truth. This immoral means of excelling exams is proving to be very unfair for assiduous students. "Seeing many students receive outstanding marks without any real contribution is a hard pill to swallow. I feel as if my hard work is no longer valued," claimed Iffat, an HSC student.
On a more serious note, the detrimental consequences of this situation stretches past the current phase, which may leave a profound impact in the future. Exposed with the choice for either taking predicted grades or sitting for exams in the following session, several students in O and A levels are in a conundrum with uncertainty lurking around their decision.
Everyday people are losing their near and dear ones, so many are suffering from financial losses, and several are struggling to make ends meet. With so many things happening in the background, it can be a whirlwind of uncontrollable emotions for the pandemic examinee.
There is much more to the situation than meets the eye, with a multitude of factors simultaneously in play. We started online exams with high spirits, but with the passage of time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to remain calm and composed.