Thursday, February 22, 2024

How CUET fails the test of quality education?

The Common University Entrance Test (known as CUET) is a pan-India test organised by the National Testing Agency (NTA) as per the guidelines of the government. With the New Educational Policy coming into play last year, common entrance tests have become essential for admission to a central university for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

In 2022, the introduction of these exams was met with vehement protests from students of various political organisations, which were shut down. However, the repercussions of these exams have been detrimental for the university at large. Due to the untimely changes made to the tests, many students were unable to give the exams on time because the travel was extremely long and tedious for them. Students were also expected to give general tests and for ‘analytical skills’ even in subject specific papers which measured their aptitude in disciplines they had long stopped studying.

Speaking from experience, I found myself confounded when faced with maths problems in the entrance for English and Political Science because I stopped studying it in class X and on the contrary, students appearing for exams like Mathematics were in a pickle on seeing English theorists make an appearance in their exams. The pattern of these papers is uncertain and tends to make deserving students lose out on opportunities to a quality education at an affordable price. Undergraduate admissions also require students to study subjects they have lost familiarity with. It is not only unfair but also quite unacceptable that students from Humanities are expected to acquaint themselves with subjects like Biology or Maths which they have no penchant for.

This makes the CUET extremely irrelevant as a deciding factor in whether a student should study a particular subject in a particular college or university because nowhere does it highlight their love for a subject or even their ability in it. One finds it rather confounding that despite having given the board exams in a particular stream, students have to prove their aptitude in an entrance test. Even in other centralised examinations, like the NEET or JEE for instance, there is a prescribed syllabus and pattern which allows students to devote time to studying a subject with dedication and panache rather than confusing them with a knowledge of subjects they have no interest in or aptitude for.

The timing of these entrances is also not very well planned, given they come less than a week after the final semester exams for postgraduate applicants. This gives them hardly any time to prepare, further hampering their chances at getting admission in a good university for a subject they worked hard for throughout their academic life during their undergraduate degree. A student from LSR appearing for the Political Science entrance despite having studied the subject in her college also had this grievance where despite performing exceptionally well in college, she missed out on MA admission last year due to the exam, and thus had to waste an entire year before appearing for it again in the current cycle.

One must also consider that students of class XII are already expected to perform exceptionally well in their board exams. However, the CUET has rendered the board exams redundant. Not only does this demotivate students, it also results in burn out because they are expected to devote themselves to studying even after clearing the board exams having exceeded expectations. The CUET, in this regard, also displays a very obvious class and metropolitan bias where students who have access to high-tech tuitions and coaching classes, more prevalent in urban centres at high prices are able to crack entrance examinations through crash courses. This completely negates the progress of students from remote areas who don’t have techniques or support in studying subjects outside their streams. Gender also becomes an important issue to grapple with, as reports have shown that boys tend to perform better at entrances than girls, whose education parents don’t want to invest a lot of money in.

Adding to this is also the fact that despite facing immense backlash in the previous year due to the mismanagement by the NTA, not much progress has been made to correct those failures. Students are allotted centres which are up to 80 kms away from their homes and are informed about them merely two days before the actual exam is conducted. The centres are also changed at the last hour, creating havoc and confusion for the students which adds to their already anxious situation. Employees at the gate are often seen to be rude and insensitive while checking entries and hardly give any grace time to students running late due to last minute changes in schedules. Furthermore, there is no verification of whether all registered students reach the centre in the given 45 minutes because the intense checking procedure only delays them.

Aspirants are subjected to a rigorous checking procedure and are penalised for a code of conduct that hadn’t been made clear to them. While the website clearly stated any government identification would be accepted at the examination centre, only the AADHAR card was accepted as reliable identity proof. Problems such as these were increasingly common in the CUET and were issues which had already come to the notice of the NTA during the last cycle of exams. However, no measures were taken to alleviate these problems by them. Perhaps more centres and revised syllabi might have made the exam procedure smoother, but the comfort of the students was hardly taken into account while conducting these exams. One can only hope that the situation is made better and serious introspection takes place on the part of the government. Quality education which is affordable is a human right and the state owes these facilities to its students and its youth.

Education should not become a luxury that benefits only the rich and causes stress to everyone around which it currently seems to be hurtling towards. Only time will tell whether CUET and NEP is able to pass the test of time.

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