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CUET: Testing Times

The education fraternity is divided on the impact of CUET on the board exams and studies at school level

Photo Credit : YIBS


The newly-introduced Central Universities Common Entrance test, or Common University Admission Test (CUET), has brought to the fore a whole gamut of reactions regarding the future of higher education, role of board exams, and perhaps a new scramble to join coaching classes to ace the new exam. From anger over regional bias to voices being raised against the emphasis on NCERT curriculum, the entrance exam has also acquired political dimension. But barring the Supreme Court allowing one state (Meghalaya) to go ahead with its own entrance procedure this year, CUET is here to stay.

It all started in 2020 when the central government announced the National Education Policy to bring about transformation in school and college education. At the same time, there was also the trend among several boards of excessively liberal marking in school-leaving exams, giving them advantage over students from other boards. Under the NEP initiative, the Ministry of Education has introduced the CUET for admission to all undergraduate programmes in all Central Universities for the academic year 2022-23. The exam will be conducted under National Testing Agency (NTA), which is founded in 2017 to conduct admission tests for admission in higher education institutions.

UGC Chairman M Jagadesh Ku -mar made it clear in his announce -ment that only CUET scores will be mandatory for admission to 46 central universities. Not only this, but he also said that class XIIth marks will be no longer ap -plicable for admissions in the UG programme and the central uni -versities can fix their minimum el -igibility criteria. Even at postgrad -uate level, admissions will be done on the basis of CUET-PG.

CUET will be a game-changer for the entire education sector.

The first edition of the exam is creating a pool of questions for students. “CUET being a new exam with no historical data around it and students are wary of the same. Whatever apprehensions abound the difficulty level of the exam, with over 9 lakh aspirants, CUET is no doubt going to be one of the most competitive entrance exams,” says Nikhil Mahajan, Executive Director, Career Launcher, ed-tech arm of CL Educate.

Burhanuddin Mala, a student of Orchids International School, Mumbai, is concerned about the way undergraduate admissions to central universities will take place in 2022, while gearing up for the first-ever Central Universities Common Entrance Test (CUET), slated for the month of July. “Having an exam just a handful of days after the XIIth grade CBSE board exam is going to be a little tiring. However, I have braced myself for the exam and I am mentally ready for the upcoming challenges,” says Mala, with a note of confidence and apprehension in the same breath.

Diya from Haldwani is feeling relaxed as there will be no peer pressure of scoring good marks to get admission to a college. “Definitely, we have to score good marks in class XII, but without any performance pressure from parents and teachers,” Diya adds. Diya is happy as only CUET marks of students will be considered for admission into UG courses, which has relieved her from many hours of study. However, it worries teachers as they fear students may overlook Board Exams.

The number of students registered for the exam has already surpassed all the existing test counts.

The Computer Based Test (CBT) exam has seen over 10 lakh registrations for the year 2022-23. A total of 87 universities and their affiliated colleges have given their consent to be a part of the exam. On the other hand, some state universities have decided not to be a part of the exam to be held in 2022.

As per NTA, it will be conducted in 13 languages, which will have a multiple-choice question format. “It is said that it will be available in 13 languages but the testing site has only two language options Hindi and English’, says Abha Dev Habib, Associate Professor, Miranda House College, University of Delhi.

“This exam is going to dilute the value of XIIth class marks, which used to be the base of university admission. This system will terminate class XI-XII studies,” she expresses her fear.

Ed-tech’s Gold Mine
For all the assurance that CUET will make students’ life easier as it will be based on what students have studied in class XII, will the pressure that students faced with respect to board exams now shift to preparation for CUET, is the moot question. Many of the coaching centres have already announced the fee and crash course. “Institutes are already witnessing a surge in enquiries for CUET coaching,” informs Mahajan of Career Launcher.

“The fact remains, students want to get coached so that they learn more about the same, and understand the competition,” he adds.

According to Darshil Rathod, student of class XII, Orchids International School, Mumbai, entrance exams held after the board examination usually mirrors the board exam pattern. Thus, attempting an exam just after the Board exam can be stressful and relaxing at the same time. This largely depends upon how satisfied you are with your Boards exam performance. She believes for students who are pretty satisfied with their Board exams, it is a win-win situation to excel in another exam. On the other hand, it is a wonderful window for students whose Board exams were average. They have been presented with an extra opportunity to turn their hard work into fruitful results.

There are also cases where this is a non-issue. A computer science teacher at a school in Aurangabad informs that hardly any of her students is preparing for admission to central universities, so boards remain important for admission there. It’s the pressure to crack JEE or medical that gives competition to pressure of board exams in many parts of the country, where parents have not opened up to the prospects in liberal arts.

“This exam is going to dilute the value of XIIth class marks, which used to be the base of university admission. It will terminate class XI-XII studies” — Abha Dev Habib, Associate Professor, Miranda House College, University of DelhiSingle Stress Point 

This exam is not created to spoil the value of education but to relieve the stress of scoring 99 per cent marks to ensure a seat in top universities, says Mahajan, while admitting that an additional exam immediately after the board exams is what students seem to be uncomfortable with.

The drawback of CUET will be that a single test will take away from students the chance to improve performance in case that one test doesn’t go well for them; they will lose out on an entire year or will have to reckon with admission in a university where they did not want to go to. In contrast, multiple entrances by universities added to the stress, but also allowed students to learning from mistakes in one exam which could be rectified in the other.

In a country like India, where parents are always dependent on coaching institutes, these initiatives under NEP 2022, are carved to increase commercialisation in the education sector as well. They might teach how to crack an exam but not the value of education, worries Abha Dev Habib.

State government, students and teachers should have been consulted before drawing any policy, she says, adding, “With focus on NCERT, the Centre is marginalising state boards.”

Ed-tech companies, however, have an opposite take on the same. They believe CUET will be the future. One should not be surprised if, in a couple of years, CUET subsumes all other entrances at the undergraduate level. Like in the case of SAT in the US, India too could go for “One nation, One Exam” for admissions at the undergraduate level. CUET aims to end the problems of high and unrealistic cut-offs and the uneven evaluation scheme by different education boards.

“There is a fear that CUET is an attack on the federal structure with an attempt to centralise education. Differences of opinions notwithstanding, we may at some point witness a common curriculum in all the education boards to bring their respective students at par with others and provide them with a level-playing field. CUET aims to eliminate all differences - geographical, socio-economic as well as educational. This will definitely standardise our education system,” says Mahajan.