Students, Teachers Worry Common Entrance Tests for Central Universities Will Leave Out Marginalized Groups
Reports suggest that India’s education ministry is “positively considering” holding the Central Universities Common Entrance Test, or CUCET, some time in the next two months. The ministry is slated to announce its final decision on the subject this week. But the prospect of this centralized test has prompted widespread concern in the student community. Various students from different parts of the country have written to the ministry, urging them to reconsider the proposed move.
Due to the cancellation of board exams for 12th-graders — whose exam scores are often used to determine their admission into undergraduate courses — the education ministry is now deliberating on holding CUCET as an alternative. The government is considering CUCET for admission into universities like the Delhi University (DU), the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
In India, the college one goes to can significantly impact the course of their career, especially in terms of the job offers they receive. As such, the introduction of an examination that has the potential to widen the existing socio-economic gap, marginalizing those already marginalized, has left several aspirants concerned about their professional future.
“There have been several research reports documenting that centralized tests such as CUCET have favored people from affluent backgrounds who have access to better study material,” Rajesh Jha, a former member of DU’s Executive Council, told Hindustan Times. Moreover, students believe that not only will richer candidates have an unfair advantage but students who were already preparing for standardized entrance examinations — like the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for engineering aspirants or National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for medical science aspirants — will have an edge over students who were solely focusing on preparing for their boards until the exams were canceled earlier this month.
“Many will face problems dealing with [the CUCET] as it entirely varies from what one has learnt in 10+2… [S]tudents who were already preparing for professional degree courses would find it easier as they were already preparing for such a test since grade 11,” a common letter sent to the Vice-Chancellor of the DU reads.
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Jha, too, feels that the sudden introduction of the test will leave candidates with very little time to familiarize themselves with the syllabus. “The CUCET has no clarification so far, no pattern, no syllabus, no previous year questions to practice… For a national level entrance, we need adequate time and space to prepare which is absent in the current situation,” Namrata Kalita, a student from Assam, who also wrote to the education ministry and authorities at the DU, told The Hindu.
In addition, Jha believes it will also disadvantage those who may not be able to afford access to preparatory materials at such short notice. “It is already mid-June and it is likely that the exams will be conducted in July or August… Online coaching classes have already started for CUCET and those with high internet access already have an edge over others,” said Tisha Mondal, a student from Bangalore, who is also part of a group that wrote to the education ministry.
However, despite concerns that the CUCET will widen the socio-economic gaps persisting between aspirants from different backgrounds, students say they aren’t opposed to the concept of CUCET itself but to its hurried implementation, which can exacerbate inequalities. “[W]e should not implement anything without proper consultation with the university’s academic council and other statutory bodies,” he added, agreeing.
“The CUCET is perhaps a good initiative but it’s not right to conduct it suddenly in this unprecedented year without informing about it earlier,” Kalita noted, adding she’s hopeful that universities will “listen to the students’ concerns.”