It ends the monopoly of certain institutions and brings all centrally-funded universities under one umbrella
India’s diversity is reflected not only through its cultural, religious, social-political, and linguistic practices, but also through its diverse geographical, climatic, environmental, developmental and educational landscapes. The diversity of religion, culture and social systems has not only made India a vibrant society and fully functional democracy but also given it a powerful voice in international arena across the continents. To some extent such diversity has provided a much-needed breathing space to groups of all segments of the society but the diversity of education and educational institutions which currently prevails in India has limited the right of equality of opportunity in higher education to the students especially living in remote, inaccessible and climatically dangerous geographical and underdeveloped zones of India.
On the other hand, the diversity of education systems also reflects an unhealthy diversity in terms of knowledge and skills being tested by myriad boards like CBSE, AICSE, NIOS, and state boards. The problem is that the lack of an integrated education landscape in India increases the dilemma of the students and their parents, particularly those living in remote areas. The lack of a single-window system for providing admission into the institutions of higher learning and undergraduate courses irrespective of geographical, linguistic or cultural diversity is viewed as a hindrance to the overall development of the youth of India.
Therefore, National Educational Policy 2020 proposed access, equity, affordability and integration of educational system of India from primary to higher education level. The way forward for such integration and uniformity was addressed by NTA established under the ministry of education, which has taken this Herculean task as a mission to admit the registered Students who are able to score good marks for clearing the admission test for under graduate courses to be held in the month of July 2022 for various central universities through one single test.
What could be the best way to fulfil the aims of NEP 2020 from the 2022-2023 session than holding one single test for admission in the various subjects mapped and shared by the universities with NTA and their own websites. The focus of the exam will be to test the subject/domain and general knowledge of the students based on the NCERT syllabus of the class 12 and thus establish a better connect of the students particularly of the remote areas with the central universities of India and other participating institutions in this common entrance test.
The exam which will be conducted through Multiple Choice Questions will also provide an atmosphere for objective assessment which will replace the subjectivity in evaluation of the descriptive traditional types of papers of the class 12 exams conducted by different boards. The hand-written answer books will be replaced by computer-based test which will not only facilitate computer literacy among the students of remote areas but also fair assessment of every student participating in this admission process. Such integration and congregation of all central universities of India as well as other private universities, state universities under one banner of NTA was not only unthinkable but also unprecedented in the history of higher education of India because all universities had their own set norms or exams for admissions.
The diversity of exams and processes was not only very taxing financially but also mentally for the prospective students and their parents as a student even scoring 99% marks in class 12 also had no guarantee to be admitted in the university or college of his or her choice or getting the subjects of their temperament. To put an end on the monopoly of certain institutions and bringing all centrally-funded universities under one umbrella is thus not only a very praise worthy step but also very challenging in view of the limited access and awareness among the stakeholders, primarily, the students, parents and teachers of the inter schools of the rural areas.
The CUET (UG) aims to provide wide variety of options like 27 subjects and 33 languages and general test to choose from. This is not only aimed to mitigate the educational and linguistic diversity as the test will be conducted into thirteen languages specified as medium of test for the students but also to provide one step solution to the admission process as through a single form the student may opt for many universities by entering their choices in the registration form. Any student living in the remotest corner of India can now think of getting admission into the big-league universities like Delhi University, JNU, BHU, Hyderabad and many more on the basis of the CUET score as well as according to the norms, condition and policy of that particular university.
This is likely to make the whole admission process very easynot only for the students but also to fulfil the aims of NEP which clearly indicated that the entrance to higher education should be through a common entrance test at the national level so that there is uniformity in standards for bench marking of candidates. As this type of test is being conducted for the first time in all over India through many centres of NTA, therefore, it should be clearly understood by all that there would be many hiccups and problems for which vigorous publicity and awareness drive about the test, registration and connecting with the NTA website or Samarth portal will be necessary.
Such awareness needs to be especially generated among the students of rural and remote areas where they not only face the issues of connectivity, but also are less computer savvy. In this situation the task of those universities located in remote and geographically difficult areas becomes much more daunting as they not only need to popularise the forthcoming NTA’s computer-based test among the class 12 students for admissions in universities of India or those located near their places but also to convince their teachers and parents about the utility of this. These universities and their teams not only have to display all features in local language but also to demonstrate each and every step from registration to filling up of forms by the deadline so that no student who is interested in taking admission in the central universities is left behind in the want of awareness and proper knowledge.
Now, besides NTA, MOE and UGC the basic onus is on the universities particularly the ones located in remote geographical areas to achieve this herculean task of bringing students to their institutions and achieving the target of equity and easy access in education through this common entrance test.This is just the beginning of the step one of the NEP, the next will be more challenging when the NEP will be implemented in all universities with revised pattern of certificate, diploma and degree courses.
(The writer is Vice-Chancellor, HNB Garhwal University, Srinagar, Garhwal, Uttarakhand. The views expressed are personal.)