A Common Central Universities Admissions Test May Seem Attractive At The Moment, But It Could Have A Big Impact On Long-Term Learning
The recent introduction of a Common University Entrance Test (CUET) for admissions to 45 Central Universities (CUs) funded by the University Grants Commission has raised serious concerns. The move came as part of the National Education Policy, which proposes that CUET, conducted in 13 languages, be made mandatory in 45 CUs to enable admissions using a single national level test score. The UGC also clarified that the test should not disrupt the existing system of reservations at individual universities.
While the policy would save admission seekers the trouble of sitting multiple entrance exams for UG admissions and, also, studying for the otherwise demanding Council exams, the limitations of this standardized test are many. First, it eliminates the value of scores obtained in Class XII, limiting scores to be only a qualifying benchmark or criterion of eligibility to take the test rather than being the sole or even co-determinant of merit. Simply put, the test, in one fell swoop, leaves Class XII, and even Class X board exams, irrelevant. One of the biggest consequences, perhaps, will be on students’ learning values, which could be significantly impaired.
The “long” learning that textbooks and school teaching aim to provide will be largely overlooked and will instead be replaced by the urgent need to focus on the objective-type questions posed in CUET. This will prevent school education from involving students in any form of creativity and even after-school programs. The limited amount of reading or writing skills imparted to students in schools will now boil down to sticking only to an MCQ-based learning format, which will have a big impact on subjective disciplines such as the arts. , social sciences and literature. Where is the place for exploration, creativity, interpretative and illustrative understanding, managing ambiguities or learning to argue? Well, it is ironic that the recently imposed National Education Policy (NEP) ostensibly aimed to promote more thinking and analytical skills as part of the school experience.
Additionally, the test will push the coaching industry to introduce new, expensive hybrid courses starting in Class VI to train students for objective learning at an early stage. The JEE and NEET exam centers are great examples of how entrance testing is driving the coaching industry as the need of the hour. This, in turn, will replace natural intelligence with “artificial” intelligence, literally speaking, since learning will be based on recognizing the pattern of exam papers and creating multiple question banks, which would be available on the Internet or practice books in quantity.
Knowledge will therefore be replaced by snippets of superficial information, leaving no room for cognitive and constructive learning. To top it all off, the policy, introduced in an atmosphere where education has already suffered enough of a backlog due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cannot be called a “landmark” and could instead prove challenging. for students seeking admission in 2022. These batches could, in fact, face aggravation of longer-term difficulties when, in a work environment, extensive work formats, detail skills, structuring and interpretation and analysis are considered mandatory for a position.
Well, it can be argued that making the results of Board exams non-decisive in this matter could be beneficial given the state of regional or state boards, which involve a deficit of trust in academic quality and a lack consistent scoring models. The disparity in assessment certainly makes it difficult to use these scores as an equal metric across all CUs. However, it is imperative to note here — isn’t strengthening state and regional councils more important than getting rid of their already degraded existence and value? Why not incorporate a change that ensures Board exams don’t lose their value? What if, through this move, schools completely lose their relevance as students and parents begin to rely more on coaching centers? Well, it’s important to focus on the students actually learning the course instead of them becoming fodder for the coaching industry.
Interestingly, the policy has been scrutinized by critics through the prism of the Narendra Modi government’s “one nation, one standard” motto. However, the Madhuri R Shah committee had recommended in 1984 the introduction of a national merit examination or a common eligibility test.
Well, considering all these factors, the questions remain – In a country like India, which still has a long way to go to carve out a place in basic tertiary education and bridge the economic and between genders, prescribes a single entrance test as a single determinant of merit for the pragmatic Indian higher education system? Does a hassle-free admissions model harm the quality of education? Will it in any way nurture the inner growth and prosperity of a child? Does it prepare students for real-world and workplace challenges?
(The author is a freelance journalist specializing in reporting and human interest stories. She is currently a postgraduate student in public policy at the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode. Opinions expressed are personal.)