Twenty students dead by suicide. Three lakh others facing discrepancies in their intermediate results. Parents and children up in arms over mistakes that could prove costly for future career prospects. But Globarena Technologies, the firm in the middle of the Telangana intermediate exam results fiasco says, it happens.
Speaking to TNM, VSN Raju, the CEO of Globarena Technologies – which was hired by the Telangana State Board of Intermediate Education (TSBIE) to build a software that would digitise all exam-related administrative work into one platform – said the issue is being blown out of proportion. “These kinds of errors happen every year, but this year it got politicised,” Raju said. When asked about the problems with the software, he did not deny that it was not perfect. “This is just the first year of its operation,” he justified.
Globarena’s software was supposed to bring together various administrative work related to candidate admission, issuing of hall tickets, digitising exam results, re-evaluation of exam papers, and a few other functions. Globarena bagged a three-year contract in January 2018, and started building the software in February that became operational in June but was still in development until sometime this year.
When the Telangana intermediate exam results were announced on April 18, several mistakes came to light. If one student who actually scored 99 marks was marked with a 0, others were marked absent despite giving the exam. A total of 3.5 lakh students failed the exams, and at least three lakh students have found discrepancies in the results. And therefore, there has been a lot of unrest among students and parents.
Asked to explain the issues, VSN Raju blamed human error. The digitising process includes OMR (Optical Mark Recognition) sheets, where examiners fill in marks for each student. If the examiner marks the wrong bubble – called ‘bubbling error’ – then the marks inputted into the system are wrong.
“If a student scores 79 marks, then the examiner will bubble on seven, and on nine. So when we scan the sheet we get the output as 79,” said Raju who added that the human-made bubbling error then reflects in the final results. The CEO said these kinds of human errors happen every year and there is “nothing extraordinary about them. The students approach the Board for revaluation and get these mistakes rectified,” he added.
But what about the other kinds of errors that arose, such as being marked absent despite passing the exam? The defensive CEO had a justification for this, too.
“These candidates were supposed to write the exam in one centre but they appeared for the exam in another. Normally, the OMR sheets come pre-printed, but since these candidates moved to a different centre, they had used a blank OMR sheet where the candidate filled their details,” explained Raju. The firm gets both the pre-printed and the blank OMR sheets that gets digitised into the software. “The candidates who were marked absent in the pre-printed OMR sheets were shown as absent in the results but their score was counted,” he said.
The firm claims an hour into the declaration of the results, the errors were flagged and corrections updated in the official TSBIE website.
“But there are many sites from where the candidates check their results. The update we made to the main website did not reflect on the other websites. Thus, they had the outdated results and the issue was blown out of proportion,” said Raju, blaming the Telugu media for “spreading fear among the parents and students.”
“Three days before the results, there were Telugu media reports that the answer sheets have been misplaced if those reports are correct or not has to be answered by the Board. But these reports had already caused panic among the parents and students,” he added.
Globarena has now been tasked with the re-evaluation of the exam results using the same software – but their work will also be audited by another firm. The firm said they have undertaken a case study to prevent a repeat of the fiasco next year.
“The software is not the problem, all software have the same problems when they start operating for the first few months. There will be bugs which are fixed over time. But the bugs have got nothing to do with the discrepancies that have risen in the intermediate exams. We have documented the bugs and even fixed them before the results were announced. Many of the issues are fixed as they arise, its standard industry practice,” added Raju.