Neither the academic circuit nor the students will readily concur with the West Bengal Education Minister, Bratya Basu’s announcement to scrap admission tests and interviews this year for entry to under-graduate courses. Students will instead be admitted on the basis of the marks obtained in the run-up to the Class 10 and 12 exams that have been cancelled by various boards both at the national and state levels.
Even interviews have been barred. The admission process, therefore, verges on the ludicrous, indeed one that offers little scope for evaluation of merit. While Jadavpur University, a centre of excellence, is yet to take a call on the praxis, the autonomous St Xavier’s University has been explicit on the point that it will go ahead with tests.
This is how it should be. “The government’s decision is for state-run universities. We are going ahead with our admissions on the scheduled dates,” was the response of the Vice-Chancellor, Fr Felix Raj. Hopefully, the robust and exceptionally talented admissions committee of JU will abide by the conventional system. On closer reflection, this is perfectly rational not the least because by doing away with entry-level tests, the state is attempting to put in place a one size-fits all formula at the vital transition stage from school to college.
Presidency University, going by the statement issued by ViceChancellor Anuradha Lohia, is awaiting advice from the West Bengal Joint Entrance Examinations Board that conducts the entrance exam. It would be pertinent to recall that even toppers in school-leaving exams, had to appear in admission tests, pre-eminently in English, Economics and History for entering Presidency College.
(An exception was of course made in 1971 in the wake of Naxalite violence on the campus, the closure of the hallowed Main building, and the conversion of the college to a CRPF camp). Admission tests have never been more imperative than this year given the need to screen candidates post the cancellation of the ICSE, ISC and Higher Secondary exams.
The boards have cancelled the exams that are held on the basis of varying degrees of instruction. The minister’s formulaic prescription will doubtless militate against uniformity in the admission/selection process. Not to put too fine a point on it, the quality of the students is bound to suffer in the contrived absence of agreeable criteria. With a stroke of the ministerial pen, Mr Basu may have denuded standards, if unwittingly. An admission test is invariably preceded by what they call “study at home”, and does not entail classroom lectures.
Coaching centres represent a different ~ and commercial ~ proposition altogether. While the provisions of the minister’s roadmap seem fairly comprehensive from the government’s perspective, there can be no compromise on intrinsic merit. The cancellation of ISC, ICSE and Higher Secondary exams has precluded a level playing field as students gear up for the next stage of learning. The careers of hundreds of thousands are at stake.