UGC NET: Whose ‘eligibility’ is at stake, after all?
Rana Nayar
HE latest edition of the University Grants Commission National Eligibility Test (UGC NET) — held biannually — was conducted on Sunday. This may be a good time to question the rationale of this test. Over the years, the UGC has displayed callous disregard for ground realities, especially in the way in which the NET has been perceived or conceptualised, and is being conducted.


Campus NoteS


UGC NET: Whose ‘eligibility’ is at stake, after all?
Rana Nayar

In its present form, this particular examination has become a way of keeping a majority of the aspirants out of the charmed circle
In its present form, this particular examination has become a way of keeping a majority of the aspirants out of the charmed circle.

THE latest edition of the University Grants Commission National Eligibility Test (UGC NET) — held biannually — was conducted on Sunday. This may be a good time to question the rationale of this test. Over the years, the UGC has displayed callous disregard for ground realities, especially in the way in which the NET has been perceived or conceptualised, and is being conducted.

The mandarins in the UGC seem to be living in a fool’s paradise if they think that by devising the NET, they have stumbled upon the ultimate antidote for everything that ails our system of higher education. So much is wrong with our modes of recruitment, right from the way interviews are pre-fixed or rigged to the bias against merit and so much more that it needs to be recast on priority.

How we need to replace our existing, archaic method of selecting/rejecting a candidate on the basis of a few ‘stagey questions’ with a more effective and practical mode of assessing him on the basis of his performance in an actual classroom situation is perhaps a matter for another article. Though there is no denying the fact that this exam is needed as a filter to identify the suitable candidates for lecturership, it is an equally important fact that its present design/model has made it into a poor, if not a completely porous and an ineffective, filter.

First of all, how did UGC mandarins come to this fallacious conclusion that Paper I, which is mainly ‘a test of reasoning’, should be made compulsory for all? Instead, wouldn’t it have been much better if they had devised an aptitude test of some kind to evaluate the suitability of the candidates for the job? What we need to know is whether the candidates love teaching, and have the right kind of an attitude towards the students and are psychologically prepared to undertake the multiple challenges of teaching. By insisting upon ‘a test of reasoning,’ UGC mandarins have only displayed their own poverty, if not total bankruptcy of thought, which, in any case, is reflected in virtually every decision they take. Theirs is a typical case of ‘decide in hurry, and repent at leisure.’

The test of reasoning makes the entire process of selection/rejection of prospective teachers extremely mechanistic, and for that reason, very callous and inhuman. In fact, it is the absence of ‘human agency’ in most of the decisions of the UGC that often appalls one. For that reason, I make a strong plea for replacing the test of reasoning with a more humanistic idea of an ‘aptitude test’ to be prepared by some of the best psychologists in the country. Or we may also borrow a model for this purpose from the West. Don’t we work with borrowed models in other matters, too?

Now that the UGC has introduced objective type in Paper III, there is no justification, whatsoever, for continuing with Paper II (which is again objective type). Tell me, how will you, in that case, effectively differentiate between Paper II and Paper III? So it’s time to dispense with Paper II completely. Paper I, provided it is designed effectively, should be made the basis of elimination in the first round. Only in case of those candidates, Paper II (which should be the only objective type paper) be evaluated who manage to secure minimum 60 per cent marks in Paper I. Paper I should be of two hours duration and have 60 questions (which should be real brain teasers so that the candidates are made to think and reflect. Somehow, this factor of critical thinking is absent in the current dispensation), consisting of 120 marks.

While one may argue against the basic wisdom of introducing an objective type test at this level (given the nature of some subjects, especially in social sciences and languages), now that it is there, let’s talk of how it could be improved upon. Paper II (objective type) should be of three hours duration and have 90 questions of two marks each, with a total of 180 marks. The total score in both the papers should not exceed 300. Only if a candidate secures 72 marks out of 120 (that is 60 per cent) in Paper I should his Paper II be evaluated and if he secures 55 per cent (which is the minimum eligibility condition for lecturership at the Masters level, too. After all, there has to be some internal consistency in the way in which we devise the minimum eligibility condition for lecturership), he should be declared pass in the NET.

In its present form, this particular examination has become a way of keeping majority of the aspirants out of the charmed circle, not a way of testing their eligibility. As a result, in most of the cases, even good students (who manage to secure more than 60 per cent marks in their Masters) fail to qualify the NET. Are our mandarins in the UGC trying to tell us that our system of evaluation in the universities is so completely faulty that those who get more than 60 per cent in Masters don’t actually deserve to clear the NET?

The idea is not to eliminate potentially good candidates but to sift the potential teachers from those who lack potential for teaching completely. Let us not make total mockery of the system. Let us not act in a whimsical and arbitrary manner (in which the rest of the system works in our country), and let us inject some element of ‘human agency’ into our callous and inhuman practices.

Let us be prepared to change our modes of evaluation. We can’t fail our next generation just because we don’t have the right kind of ideas or we are not prepared to try out new ideas. Let’s be prepared for the overhaul and let’s do it sensibly. Let us not become a laughing stock of all by merely flaunting our own poverty of thought. 

If we make no efforts to bring about the necessary changes in the current model of the NET, then perhaps, it’s not the candidates’ but the ‘eligibility’ of the UGC itself that shall be at stake. Let us not forget that it is a body, tethering on the brink of collapse. Aren’t there efforts afoot to replace it with the Knowledge Commission (of whatever kind)?

The writer is a Professor in the Department of English and Cultural Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh


New education app ecosystem

NEW DELHI: The third version of low-cost tablet ‘Aakash’ will be a delight for its users as developers are likely to equip it with a SIM slot and more exciting apps, all within the existing price band. About 50 lakh Aakash 3 tablets are expected to be rolled out in the next phase, the global tender for which may be floated in February next year. According to committee members engaged in developing the third version of Aakash, the endeavour will be to make the product as indigenous as possible and involve multiple vendors. “Our ultimate aim is to imbibe the usage of tablets in the education system and create an ecosystem for this,” said Deepak B. Phatak, committee member and Professor in IIT- Bombay’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering. — PTI

Yale under fire for new campus

NEW HAVEN (Connecticut): For more than 300 years, Yale University has prided itself on training top students to question and analyse, to challenge and critique. Now, Yale is seeking to export those values by establishing the first foreign campus to bear its name, a liberal arts college in Singapore that is set to open this summer. But the multimillion-dollar project has stirred sharp criticism from faculty and human-rights advocates who say it is impossible to build an elite college dedicated to free inquiry in an authoritarian nation with heavy restrictions on public speech and assembly. “Yale’s motto is ‘Lux et veritas,’ or ‘Light and truth’,” said Michael Fischer, a Yale Professor of computer science. “We’re going into a place with severe curbs on light and truth ... We’re redefining the brand in a way that's contrary to Yale’s values.” — Reuters

Madonna’s charity builds 10 schools in Malawi

Melbourne: Madonna has built 10 primary schools in Malawi during 2012, her charity has announced. Two years after abandoning a 15-million-dollar girls academy, the 54-year-old singer said recently that the projects will help educate 4,871 children in the tiny southern African country, reported. The projects were carried out by the pop diva’s charity Raising Malawi and the global non-profit buildOn. — ANI

Campus NoteS

Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak
Focus on research methodology

ADEQUATE understanding of research methodology, including knowledge of statistical methods, research software and analytical techniques, is of utmost importance for researchers. Therefore, researches must develop a comprehensive understanding of all these aspects. This was stated by Prof. H. J. Ghosh Roy, Director, Institute of Management Studies and Research (IMSAR), and Dean, Faculty of Management Sciences, while inaugurating a national workshop on “Analytical Techniques for Research” here recently. The workshop was organised by the Department of Commerce of the university in collaboration with the Global Network of Business Researchers. Professor Roy in his address called upon the participants to develop a sincere and serious approach towards research. Earlier, Prof. Ravinder Vinayek, Head of the Department of Commerce, and Dean, Academic Affairs, gave an introductory brief of the workshop. He said building awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the systematic use of statistical methods, software and analytical techniques were necessary for researchers. As many as 68 participants from university departments and affiliated colleges took part in the workshop.

Winter vacation schedule

The university has rescheduled winter vacations for the session 2012-2013. According to the MDU Registrar, Dr S.P. Vats, the winter vacations will now be observed from January 1 to 14. Earlier, the vacations were scheduled to be observed from December 26, 2012, to January 8, 2013. The schedule will also be applied on university teaching departments; Indira Gandhi PG Regional Center, Meerpur (Rewari); University Institute of Law and Management Studies, Gurgaon; and affiliated undergraduate and postgraduate colleges. The Academic Branch has notified the new schedule, informed the Registrar.

UGC NET exam

Around 25,000 candidates appeared in the National Eligibility Test (NET) held recently by t.he University Grant Commission (UGC) at 60 examination centres set up at Rohtak. According to the MDU Controller of Examination (CoE), 23 observers and 1,400 officials were on duty for this examination. The university had made necessary arrangements for the smooth and fair conduct of the examination, added the CoE.

Indian Institute of Management, Rohtak
Strategic directional workshop

A strategic directional workshop, “IIM-Rohtak: The Road Ahead”, was organised here recently. The workshop brought together its stakeholders — members of the International Advisory Council, faculty, staff and students — in debating IIM-Rohtak’s long-term strategy and vision in core areas such as academic architecture, pedagogy and learning culture, domains of focus, intellectual environment, leadership and governance, etc. Those who spoke at the workshop included Chairman, Board of Governors, Ravi Kant, Vice Chairman, Tata Motors Ltd, and members of the International Advisory Council, Harsh Manglik, former CMD, Accenture India, and Prof. Lalit Johri, Said Business School, University of Oxford. They spoke about how the local IIM in its formative years has the power to mould things the way it wants to. The discussion focused on the importance of industry, government and academic partnerships, which create a collaborative and participative curriculum.

— Contributed by Bijendra Ahlawat