The Common University Entrance Test (CUET), which will now be mandatory for admissions to all undergraduate courses in central universities, is being touted as a test that will level the playing field and give equal opportunity to all students across the country. While many agree with the University Grants Commission's (UGC's) decision, some teachers and professors think that it will create a new set of problems.
Many educators think that the board examination pressure on Class 12 students will be reduced significantly. While some believe that another test will lead to added stress among students. Another criticism of the CUET is that it will give rise to a new coaching ecosystem, which will again result in inequality.
Contradictory Opinions on Financial Burden
While explaining why CUET is being implemented across central universities, UGC Chairperson Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar said that it would reduce financial stress on students as they will not have to sit for multiple entrance exams.
N Sukumar, a professor in the Department of Political Science, Delhi University (DU), who said that every policy has its advantages and disadvantages, told The Quint, “It is true that it will reduce the financial burden as students will not have to appear for multiple tests. This will make it easier for students from marginalised backgrounds.”
Jitendra Meena, an assistant professor of History, DU, however, said, “Coaching institutes will come up to train students for this entrance exam, and this will put more financial burden on students and their families.”
Students From All Boards Might Not Benefit Equally
In the past few years, it has been argued that students from some state boards get admission in colleges more easily than others because some boards mark more leniently than others. While CUET is set to address this diversity in marking system, it is likely to lead to more inequalities.
Professor Sukumar said that there is already a hierarchy when it comes to central and state universities. “It will lead to a situation where those who sit for CUET will be given ‘more merit.’ Again, students will start receiving differential treatment.”
He added that students from all states might not benefit equally;
“Students from states with better educational facilities will end up benefiting from the policy and those from states that are still developing their educational facilities and infrastructure, will end up losing out.”N Sukumar, DU Professor
Anubha Shrivastava Sahai, the Mumbai-based president of the India Wide Parents Association, said that students from boards such as Maharashtra will suffer as they do not have the same syllabus.
She said, "Most CBSE students are okay with it because the exam will be based on NCERT books. Students of state board schools will face issues. This will be a problem until they release a question bank."
The Question of Academic Freedom
Professor Jitendra Meena said that most universities are autonomous and they have their own admission processes. Some specialised courses conduct interviews. For instance, he said, "Jharkhand University offers a distinctive course on Tribal Studies. How can one test determine who is to get admitted to the course? It is essentially an attack on academic freedom."
Minority institutions such Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) earlier said that they would not prescribe to CUET as their minority status is sub-judice. Earlier, DU's Standing Committee had said that minority colleges affiliated to the university, such as St Stephen's and Jesus and Mary College, will have to conduct admissions based on CUET as well.
Institutes such as Article 30 of the Constitution allows minorities the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
Sana Aziz, assistant professor in the Department of History, AMU, shared her reservations against the entrance test. She said that minority institutions such as Jamia Millia Islamia and AMU hope to stick to status quo. As of now, AMU has subjective questions in the entrance tests for postgraduate courses and objective questions for the undergraduate courses.
As far as objective questions are concerned, there is already mushrooming of coaching centres. This will only lead to further commercialisation of higher education, which will serve as a hindrance for students coming from rural and marginalised communities.Sana Aziz, Assistant Professor, AMU
Will the CUET Disregard Efforts by Students, Teachers?
The new system will overlook the performance of students in their board examinations as the admission will be dependent solely on CUET. Universities can prescribe a certain board result score as an eligibility criteria.
Abha Dev Habib, a Physics professor at DU's Miranda House, said that this would disregard hard work of students that they put in to prepare for the board exams.
When students are working towards board exams, schools take efforts. Students are guided, internal exams take place, practical exams are held. If Class XI and XII are disregarded, given the environment in which teaching and learning has been taking place in the country, you will see that this would lead to erosion of school in their most important year.Abha Dev Habib, a Physics Professor at Miranda House
Citing the example of Delhi government schools that have been striving to better their performance, she said that schools will not put in as much effort any longer.
Ameeta Mulla Wattal, Chairperson of DLF Foundation Schools, said that the CUET will not make any difference to schools and their role in a student’s life. She said, “The school is a universe and a universe can never lose its importance. It is about humanism, it is about personality development and growth.”
More Stress for Students?
Neeti Bhalla, Executive Principal, GEMS Modern Academy, Gurugram, said that it is good that there is less pressure on students to mug-up and write an exam. She, however, said that an additional test would increase the burden on students now. She said that ideally board results should be given some weightage.
Bhalla added that those who are preparing to study in foreign universities will get confused. "They will prepare for boards since many foreign universities look at board results but they will also have to prepare for CUET, just in case they do not get through the universities abroad," said Bhalla.
Jitendra Meena brought up a similar point; “It would put more burden on students who have been preparing for other competitive examinations such as JEE (Joint Entrance Exam). If they do not get through, they can fall back on their board results but now the same students will have to prepare for two exams simultaneously.”
Meanwhile, parents' association head Sahai said that students from state boards will face double the pressure since their syllabus is very different. On top of that, students who have just found out about the test, will have only a few months to prepare.
Professor Abha said that the current class XII batch was in Class X when the pandemic started, and had to deal with a different kind of pressure.
On the bright side, students who are from boards that did not mark as leniently, will be given the same platform as students from boards that mark leniently.
Satya Prakash, the Delhi president of the All India Parents’ Association, whose daughter studies in a Delhi government school, said, “Students from government schools, who earlier had a number of limitations, now have the chance of getting admitted to their dream colleges.”