While CUET ensures a single-window admission opportunity to university aspirants across the country, it could fail underprivileged students who lack adequate financial support and access to coaching in order to adapt to the new system, reports Ifrah Mufti
Parents had no reason to cheer over class XII board exam scores this year – peaking at 99.99 per cent and even a perfect 100 per cent sometimes – as the mark sheet will be of no value for those planning to pursue higher studies at the Central universities.
With the introduction of the single-window opportunity for students to seek admission in the Central universities, the Central Universities Entrance Test (CUET) has apparently instituted a series of changes for the 2022-23 batch.
Class XII board results have been devalued under the new system. This apart, a major implication of CUET falls on underprivileged aspirants who lack adequate financial support for tutoring or guidance in order to adapt to the new system.
According to academicians, it is a blow to the objective of making higher education accessible to all.
Another question the system has been raising is that of the multiple-choice question (MCQ) based tests, which may fail to examine critical thinking skills and writing proficiency.
In terms of social sciences and liberal arts especially the changes may overlook the concept of deeper conceptual understanding of a subject.
The first-ever CUET was conducted on July 15 amid confusion among the students with some missing the exams and some reaching late.
All stakeholders, including students, teachers, parents and academicians lent a mixed response to the newly-introduced system.
It technically replaces the decades-old admission process in Central universities including Jamia Millia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University in the national capital.
After taking the first part of the exam, students and teachers raise two glaring questions. One: How will a student get through an admission process when there will be no cut-offs set for a particular college? Two: How will a student manage to walk into a college of their choice?
This newspaper spoke to a few DU college principals and academic council members who shared varied opinions on this grand exam.
With CUET following a brand new format, S P Aggarwal, principal, Ramanujan College, believed that universities should have arranged for guidance and orientation programmes for students but nothing happened.
“We conveniently left it on to the private sector to train the students preparing for CUET. I had taken up this initiative but nobody liked it and I had to drop the idea. However, I am on my way to developing such a project where students can get coaching for CUET in just Rs 500-1,000 unlike Rs 1 lakh or so being charged by private coaching institutes.
He said, “I don’t know how much the government and universities will support me in this regard but I will try my best to help out students for this exam.”
However, Manoj Khanna, principal of Ramjas College said, “I believe students who didn’t seem to like the concept of CUET were just unnecessarily worried. There is nothing to be worried about. All class XII students are supposed to be studying from NCERT books and if they did not pick up an NCERT book, it is their fault.”
On mismanagement, he said, “Since the exam was being held for the first time, it was natural for certain mismanagement but as per the feedback I have got, the exam was simple and went on smoothly. The NTA and UGC have even clarified that students who missed the exam will be given another opportunity so I don’t find any fault in this exam.”
Expressing optimism over the new format, Anju Srivastav, principal, Hindu College, said, “We understand that there was very limited time given to children to comprehend the changes but students need not worry. The new exam will ensure a very good level-playing field for them. Earlier, there used to be apprehensions about the way of marking by different boards or no moderation happening accordingly. Students should be as they are. What they have prepared for the boards is enough. Just keep brushing up on lessons. We have got the feedback that in terms of difficulty level, the exam was simple.”
She reminded those worrying about not getting into the college of their choice that if they have done well in boards then they will equally do well in CUET. Lastly, there may be hiccups and mismanagement but overall, things are being fairly managed, she said.
Dr Mithuraaj Dhusiya, Associate Professor, Hansraj College and academic council member, DU, said, “It was very unfortunate to see students being given unnecessary pressure by enforcing this exam on them despite knowing that they had to endure close to three years of a pandemic. The mismanagement at the last moment of the exam increased the trauma among students. We don’t know where this will all lead to? We need to wait and watch for things to become clearer. Besides, the universities should have focused on giving more counselling to orient the students. Some mock tests would have helped the students. I strongly believe that this unwarranted, additional and chaotic burden on students will not result in a healthy education system. Also, it has devalued the class XII board results and it has also led to mushrooming of private coaching centres looting families.”
Also objecting to the format, Manoj Sinha, principal, Aryabhatta College, said, “I am not in favour of exams having multiple choice questions. What are we judging the students for? Their ability to pick and choose or their subjective knowledge? Are we making any progress in the education system by doing that? Besides, undermining of class XII board exams will also come to pass soon. I may not be the right person to judge this whole system but I strongly believe that since the authorities have made a common exam for Central universities, then they should also form one common board for all students who wish to take admission in Central universities. Automatically it will be compulsory for such kids to appear for this exam.”
Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha member and RLD leader Jayant Singh Chaudhary, while sharing the photo of a CUET-based ad on Sunday, tweeted, “Full page ads in newspapers indicating what a bonanza is in store ahead for the coaching industry! Thanks to the so-called equalizing exam #CUET! CUET is a fresh burden on students and detrimental for the students from state boards and rural areas.”
A class XII topper from Delhi-NCR, Yuvakshi Vij, who became the country topper as well with a 500/500 score, said, “I am happy with my scores but am worried if I will be able to walk into the college of my choice. I have always dreamt of pursuing higher courses at DU but with this CUET, the competition has further risen. I will wait for the results now.”
DU V-C speaks
According to DU’s Vice-Chancellor Yogesh Singh, CUET is a timely and necessary step the government took. It is a balancing act of sorts necessitated by the diverse board systems existing in the country.
“At the University of Delhi when we were admitting students through merit-based admissions, there was complete chaos because of the 100 per cent cut-off and 98 per cent but the performance of the students, in this case, depends on their performance in board exams. In our country some boards are very lenient, some very strict and some reasonable. But we were seldom considering the aspect of evaluating the students and giving them admissions in universities, which had proved very unfair to students who were coming from the strict boards.”
“There are a few states neighbouring Delhi where the boards are strict and their students have failed to get admission in DU. Very few students get admission. But students from elsewhere where the boards are lenient manage to. This is no criticism of the boards, it may be natural if they want to be liberal to their students. India is a diverse country and when we have to measure all students, the parameters should be the same for all,” the vice-chancellor said.
Will the exam create a level-playing field?
70,000 seats are offered by Delhi University this year for UG programmes.
With 6 lakh applications, Delhi University colleges are among the most popular for UG courses.
DU has received double the number of applications as compared to the previous year. Last year, it received 3.5 lakh applications.
With 57,000 applications, JNU is most favoured for PG programmes. Ambedkar University is top pick among state universities, receiving 1.28 lakh applications.
CUET is compulsory for all 45 Central universities funded by UGC which implies that minority institutions like AMU and Jamia will also have to adopt the entrance test criteria for admissions.
CUET will not affect the quota of reserved seats at such institutions, but they will have to admit all through the common test.
From this year, admissions to UG courses in 45 Central universities will happen solely on the basis of CUET scores.
Hence, marks secured in class XII Board exams will not carry any weightage in university admissions.
International students seeking admission in Indian universities are exempt from CUET.