By Ashok Pandey
Streamlining the admission process to all undergraduate programmes in all central universities, the Ministry of Education recently announced the Common University Entry Test (CUET-UG 2022). No sooner than the announcement, arguments for and against raising the decibels were made. The government argues that the CUET will provide a common platform and equal opportunity to candidates across the country, especially those from rural and other remote areas.
Those against the CUET have valid reservations. The CUET is not an issue, per se. Its hurried implementation with effect from the session 2022-23 has added to the woes of the current batch of board examinees who have experienced the worst in the last two years. As in previous years, their board examination marks could have served the purpose of admission to UG programmes, saving them the rigour of at least one entrance amongst a slew of such tests they will appear for.
However, the primary concern remains that the CUET preparation will open yet another avenue for the thriving coaching culture that has plagued the country for a long time. The NEP 2020 acknowledges that “the current nature of secondary school exams, including Board exams and entrance exams—and the resulting coaching culture of today—are doing much harm, especially at the secondary-school level, replacing valuable time for true learning with excessive exam coaching and preparation. These exams also force students to learn a very narrow band of material in a single stream, rather than allowing the flexibility and choice that will be so important in the education system of the future.” (NEP 2020, 4.36). It is not surprising that within days of the announcement of the CUET, hoardings, advertisements and WhatsApp messages offering crash courses and model papers began to fill the media space.
Educationists across the country are wondering that two years of crucial learning experience in classes XI and XII is already compromised under the alter of the JEE, NEET, CLAT, and a host of other entrance examinations outsourced to coaching classes. The NEP’s vision to develop a holistic personality, inculcate future skills, critical thinking, community work, volunteering and preparing the young to be custodians of the planet will suffer a great deal if students focus on college admissions through the coaching route. The two crucial years are an exercise by schools to prepare children for college, career and life. Focus on entrance exams and coaching may ensure college admissions by accepting some and rejecting others. Nevertheless, the entire generation will be deprived of school experience, lively debates, street plays, social campaigns and numerous opportunities for learning for life. Hence the concern that class XII performance must be weighed in college admissions.
As the CUET goes at scale and more universities opt for it, much consultation will be required to address the concerns of the education fraternity, meeting the national aspirations and international benchmarks. The current scheme of the CUET relies heavily on languages. The second component of language choices includes many foreign languages. How these languages will be a part of the curriculum is not clear? UG courses require a deeper understanding of disciplines. Therefore, the criteria for choosing optional subjects’ in part 3-CUET must be linked with students’ performance in class XII. Also, choosing six domain subjects is stressful.
The vision of equity and excellence in the society entails that coaching classes do not become the mandatory requirement for students of the economically and socially disadvantaged group for college admissions. The CUET may have good intentions, but it must be a CUTE experience as we roll it out.
The author is a Delhi-based educationist.