From perceptible macro-level reforms to subtle nuanced shifts, India’s education system is undergoing a sea change under the New Education Policy (NEP), 2020. The University Grants Commission (UGC) is now aiming at combining NEET and JEE (Main) with the CUET to create a single entrance exam for all purposes. Talking to Vibha Sharma, UGC Chairman M Jagadesh Kumar spoke about important issues concerning the students. Excerpts:
Some exam centres for the CUET said at the eleventh hour that they could not conduct the paper, while some said the computers developed glitches in spite of due checks. Lesson learnt, this won’t happen next year.
The first edition of CUET evoked a mixed response. What went wrong?
There are three components of the CUET — one, setting the question paper and converting it into the digital format. Two, identifying the exam centres equipped with internet and computers and, three, a glitch-free software that collects the responses and processes these to give results.
We only faced problem in the second part. Some centres said at the eleventh hour that they could not conduct the exam, while some said the computers developed glitches in spite of due checks. Lesson learnt, this won’t happen next year. We’ll rope in more private centres next time.
Almost 90 universities have adopted the exam. Students have benefited from it. They can now apply to several universities with a single score.
Some students say there was confusion and they could not secure admission to a college/university of their choice because of the ‘normalisation’ of marks.
Many universities such as the DU announced their admission policies in advance. It is possible that some students did not read the instructions about the CUET combinations. One of the solutions is to create better awareness about possible combinations. It is important that students look for the combinations in advance and write the papers accordingly. Besides, the UGC will advise universities to come out with their admission policies well in advance.
What about those who have not done well in the CUET and may not get a college of their choice despite scoring well in Class XII?
The contention that normalisation of marks helps social science students and that they have an advantage over those choosing science is misplaced. Let us assume that the CUET was not rolled out and the admissions were held on the basis of Class XII exams. Average marks in social sciences are generally higher than average marks in physics, mathematics and chemistry. In other words, the situation would have been the same with or without the CUET.
Marks were normalised only in one subject across different sessions, not across subjects. We will see whether or not the matter can be addressed next year. I am not promising anything because first we need to explore the possibilities and speak with experts.
There is criticism from some quarters that the CUET will encourage coaching centres.
It is a genuine concern and for this very reason, the CUET has been introduced. With the new exam, students can apply to different universities using normalised scores. This year, the number of applicants in the DU has jumped from 2.5 lakh to 6 lakh, which shows that students have more opportunities because of the CUET. Why didn’t it happen when Class XII marks were the basis of admission?
Whenever there is a supply-demand mismatch, students will go for coaching to fare well in the exams. It is for us — parents and teachers — to realise that the purpose of education is to make our children lifelong learners. Is securing 99 per cent our objective in life? I don’t think getting into an IIT or a top university is the be-all and end-all of life.
What more is in the pipeline?
Soon, the UGC will announce the National Credit Framework with school education, skill education and higher education as its three pillars. Every child, right from the school, will start earning credits. With this academic bank of credits, students can choose subjects for higher education and plan their career path. They can also shift to other universities, which was not possible earlier.
Another area that needs attention is the accessibility of higher education at an affordable cost. The UGC will encourage top universities such as the IITs to offer online degrees with no age or time limit.
The UGC is also working on merging the CUET, JEE and NEET. When will it be implemented?
The UGC is working on the idea of “one nation, one entrance exam”. With this, many logistical issues will be taken care of. Depending on their need, students can pick a combination of subjects from the same entrance examination.
The UGC will discuss the matter with the stakeholders before taking any decision. We will hold several meetings with universities. It is not going to be implemented in the next two years. Students need time to adapt to such changes. The concept is at the stage of ideation.
What do you have to say on the charge that the government is trying to saffronise the education system?
The only guiding document for the UGC is the NEP-2020, which clearly says that our education has to be based on Indian ethos, culture and civilisation. We can modernise the base and make it compatible with the western education, but we cannot undermine our own base. Students need to know how our civilisation survived for so long. Many people believe that India started prospering only after the British left. We need to have an integrated approach to our education. A professor of the IIM-Bengaluru cites the Bhagavad Gita while teaching students about leadership qualities. Knowledge, irrespective of the source and applicable to the present times, should be imbibed.
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