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Exit exam excitements!

Prof. S. Balasubramanian
Wednesday, January 4, 2023, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Pharmacy Council of India ( PCI) has announced, sometime back, that it is going to conduct Exit examination for D. Pharm passed out students. The reasons are  obvious!  PCI is not able to vouch for the present board examination's integrity, purity, and reliability, conducted by state government constituted boards for the D. Pharm course. Well, it is true, and we should appreciate PCI for accepting its failure in ensuring a reliable examination for D. Pharm. students. PCI has now proposed to conduct its own examinations in the form of exit examinations. On the eve of it, let us diagnose the disease of unreliable examinations starting from the root cause and discuss any other alternatives or methods available for exit exams.

In order to diagnose, doctors used to search for the reasons or origins for the patient's acquiring the disease. Then only they can correctly diagnose the disease and prescribe medicine, dose extra. Well, did the PCI undertake similar preliminary exercises? We have our own doubts. If you analyse the origin of this problem, it will lead you to the unscrupulous private pharmacy college management. Yes, of late, greedy, selfish, and bad elements entered the education sector after it was opened for self financing mode. Only a strong government or government body can prevent such elements from entering the stream. Alas! PCI had failed miserably. We know that hundreds of self financing pharmacy colleges were given permission by PCI in backward states in the last few years, knowing fully well that there were no qualified teachers available to teach in those colleges. Whose mistake is this?  PCI is reaping what it has sown!  This author and many other professors pointed out all these dangers even at that time, but PCI paid no heed to those advices. Of course, PCI brought a moratorium for new colleges, but it was after all damages had been done. That is, it has bolted the staple after all horses left! Even that moratorium was blown away by a Supreme Court verdict because PCI was not able to defend its moratorium effectively in the honourable court.

Failure of diagnostic tests
If a doctor is not able to perform or conduct his investigations properly, there is no doubt that he will end up making the wrong diagnosis. That's what happened in this case, too. PCI was not able to conduct its investigations of these colleges properly not only while starting these colleges but also subsequently, because of shocking reasons, if one has to believe inspectors of those colleges. They are now slowly revealing that the new colleges they were asked to inspect were in very remote places in backward North Indian states; hence, they have to depend 100% on those unscrupulous management for everything like transport, accommodation, and even for food! That is not the big problem when you compare the next shocking episode, that they were surrounded by rowdy elements from the moment they arrived at the college to their departure and threatened not to write or make any adverse remarks about the college. We can very well imagine the plight of those inspectors who are already in the mood to oblige any management by shutting their eyes, ears, and mouth. We know, we cannot ask for police protection for every college inspection!

Endemic disease
Thus the disease of unreliable examinations crept in, and soon it became endemic in the entire pharmacy academic society! Remember, the seeds for the disease - the pathogens - are already there in other developed states as well, but they are limited to a few places because of a vigilant, cultured and mostly educated society. Well, somehow that disease has arrived; what is the remedy?  Will the exit exams solve all the problems?

We don't think so. First of all, there is no guarantee that the exit exam will be malpractice-free. Conducting an exit exam at the all-India level by a small entity like PCI is a Herculean task. They have to invariably rely on one or more outside agencies. How long is it possible, and how long can one insulate these agencies from corrupt elements? So first strike at the root cause, administer strong antibiotics to kill the pathogens, and then only you can cure the disease and save the patient. Weeds should be removed first to save the crop! Find a way to revoke the permission of colleges found to be lacking in statutory infrastructure, staff, and engaging in malpractices. The next thing is to analyse the reason for contracting the disease. It is because of the short duration of the two-year diploma course, that many selfish elements think it is easy to escape and get through because of the short duration and few examinations. Hence, D. Pharm should be abolished as proposed by PCI itself some years back. Make a degree in pharmacy the minimum qualification for pharmacists. If a diseased part starts decaying and sepsis sets in, removal of it by surgery is the only option. A wise doctor will do that without any second thought. Similarly, abolish D Pharm and make B Pharm the minimum qualification. Then universities will come into the picture, and they will conduct examinations flawlessly and award the degrees by virtue of their experience in conducting many examinations for various courses throughout the year. That is, entrust academic works in the hands of legitimate academicians and not to the bureaucracy. A question may be raised: where is the guarantee that university examinations will be malpractice free?

Strict examinations
Let me share my personal experience. Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University of Hyderabad (JNTU) has somehow perfected university examinations even in the last decade. They conduct even the sessional examinations under their direct control, not to mention the annual or semester examinations. First of all, they only decide even the portion of all subjects for each sessional examination and convey that information to each college. They sent question papers online to the exam hall just 15 minutes before the exam, and after making photocopies of them, they were given to the students.

Alternatively, in some other universities, three or four sets of question papers are set for each subject, and one of them is picked by drawing lot in the examination hall in front of the candidates. Copies are made and distributed. In this way, leakage of question paper is prevented, as no one knows which question is going to be picked up in the hall. It seems to be a better method that can be made mandatory in all exams, thereby avoiding not only huge expenses in repeating the examinations but also a lot of inconvenience, disturbance in higher course admissions, time loss, and mental agony for the people. Apart from the above, the university used to send an associate or assistant professor (from engineering colleges to pharmacy colleges and vice versa) to conduct the examination as exam hall superintendent. These professors arrive just half an hour before the exam. Thus, exams are not conducted by the same college teachers, who are always under pressure from their management.

That apart, closed circuit cameras are fixed every 10 feet of the hall and a few outside of it, and they are connected online to the university monitoring centre. Recordings from these cameras are submitted every day, along with answer sheets, to the university. Needless to say, only government and reputed private colleges are recognised as exam centres. As electronic gadgets have revolutionised all walks of our lives, including copying in exams, the same electronic devices are used to supervise and conduct examinations, just like removing nails with nails! Students are allowed in the exam hall after being screened manually as well as with metal detectors. Cell phone signal jammers are used inside the examination hall. Students are prohibited from wearing jewellery, full hand sleeves, shocks, shoes, etc. Impersonation is prevented by printing the photo and registration number of the candidate on the first page of the answer booklet, which is serially numbered. Even attendance can be verified through finger prints.    There are many foolproof methods in exam paper valuation, entry of marks, etc. that are not described here considering the length. Thus, many exam reforms are in place. People not connected with the education sector may not be aware of it, but we cannot believe PCI is not aware of it. So why can't PCI try this many ways to conduct foolproof examinations as an alternative to expensive exit exams? Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University has followed all the above procedures for the past few years and reported almost zero malpractice. Good universities in other states also follow similar or even better methods. PCI, please take note of it.

(Author is Ex President, Indian Pharmacy Graduates Association, Madurai, Tamil Nadu)


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Ps_kathir Vel Jan 6, 2023 9:59 AM
It is very crucial time.so please postpone the exam
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