Just as demonetisation is expected to usher in a new cashless era, campuses in the state are trying to go digital in the exam assessment process and reduce the risk of malpractice by bringing in officials who are more IT-savvy.
In a marked change in the selection rules for director of examinations (earlier called exam controller), the Maharashtra Public Universities Act, 2016, has specified that preference should be given to candidates who have `proven capacity of use of technology in the delivery of education'. The system, as it stands now, is susceptible to manipulation. Digitisation aims at course correction. The addition to the list of `preferred' qualifications is seen as a welcome move by many, though some have reservations.
In the new Act, the state government has changed the examination controller's post to that of `director of board of examinations and evaluation'. Though the exact qualifications for the selection process will be notified through an official gazette at a later stage, the Act has defined the role of the director of examinations. In addition to the general appointment rules, the new Act has enlisted knowledge of technology as one of the qualifications, which was never incorporated before. Mumbai University, which has not had a controller since August 2015 after the previous incumbent, Dinesh Bhonde, left the position, has already had three failed attempts at hiring a suitable candidate. With the new rules in place, all public universities will have to broaden their search.
M A Khan, registrar of Mumbai University, said the Act's mandate of giving preference to a candidate with sound technical background is a good move. “There are several processes that need an overhaul in the examination house. Students should not be forced to approach university officials for any need. They should be able to access everything online. Once a tech-savvy person is hired on the post, many changes can be brought about in the processes”, said Khan. Mumbai University has already moved to digital delivery of papers and partially implemented online assessment as well, though it has not made the system entirely foolproof yet, with malpractice reported from time to time. Officials say technological process will ensure that there is less human involvement and therefore less corruption. Many other universities in the state are yet to implement some of the major technology reforms as recommended by a state government-appointed committee three years ago.
The secretary general of Maharashtra University Officers' Forum, Dinesh Kamble, said that while the requirement of knowledge of IT is a welcome move, the government should have sought an administrative person for the post, as the past Act allowed only an academic person. “Administrators are more equipped to handle the examination house than academicians. We had made this demand before, but it was turned down”, said Kamble. An official who was a contender for the controller's post recently said knowledge of technology is not a mandatory qualification and the Act may also indicate that a person who has made use of education in any department not necessarily be an academic.