The Combined Admission System:
Is the Country Ready?
With the advent of a new decade, the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh has decided to change its age-old admission system for public universities. According to the new system, a uniform admission test will be held consisting of several public universities. Under the system, admission seekers would be enrolled at public universities based on a merit list prepared from a single test. The question pattern also got changed from multiple choice to written questions only.
From the moment the news was made public, students, teachers, university heads, and the general people were divided in their opinion. The government claims to have brought this system under implementation to ease the hassle of the admission seekers and their guardians. Universities like Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Sylhet Agricultural University, Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Science University, Patuakhali Science and Technology University, Khulna Agricultural University will introduce the cluster system from 2020 itself, while the remaining universities go ahead with individual examinations. Universities like Dhaka University, Bangladesh University of Science and Technology, Jahangirnagar University have showed strong disinterest in the project while stating many reasons for doing so. Dhaka University, one of the most prestigious universities of the country, has said that: In general universities, the subjects are diverse. Coordinating the large number of diverse subjects with other universities is no easy matter. There will be complexities in students choosing their subjects. On the other hand, the academic council of BUET unanimously decided to continue their conventional system arguing it’s the best way of selecting the fresher’s. Rajshahi University fears that uniform examinations raise the risk of question leakage and take pride in the “fact” that there never have been any instances of question leaking in RU.
The general people and students seem to think that one of the main yet unspoken reasons these universities are unwilling to go ahead with the system, is because the process yields a significant amount of funds and the universities don’t want to lose it. Another reason many students put up is that these institutions want to protect their individuality. From a survey titled “The New Admission System” conducted on admission seekers and fresher’s alike, we were able to gain a deeper insight into what the thought process is of the ones who are in question. Here are what the results tell us:
A staggering 54.5% of the responses the new system might prove to be harmful for the 2nd time candidates, while 24.25 think it won’t and the rest don’t hold an opinion. This brings about a clear understanding of the fact that irrespective of being a freshman/1st or 2nd time candidate, students think this system will bring about change that will make it difficult for the 2nd timers to be accepted into public universities.
Their reasons in favor of it were: 31.3% saying it would increase the risk of unfair judgement, 28.1% saying it would be unfair to judge on the basis of a single examination as it could be very plausible that a very bright student might have gotten unlucky and hadn’t done as well in that one try, having the possibility of getting sorted into a university the student didn’t want to try out for in the first place (12.5% votes). Out of the 33.2% of responses that wish to keep the new system, statements in favor of it were: Less hassle as you don’t have to sit for multiple exams all at different places (36.4%), possibly decrease the damage question leak can do (36.4%), emphasizes on the greater good (21.2%). So the students mainly want an easier way of attending the exams as they can take a mental and physical toll on the candidates. 27.3% and 24.2% disagree and strongly disagree respectively, to the statement that in the long run, the system will work in developing the quality of education in Bangladesh. A significantly large number of the responses were neutral about this (24.2%). While the remaining 24% agree with the statement. Not so surprisingly, 48.5% of the responses strongly agreed with the fact that they felt manipulated by the sudden changes that had been brought and felt like they needed to be given more time to adjust to the situation. 27.3% agree with this, 18.2% are neutral and only a meagre 6.2% strongly disagree about feeling manipulated. Lastly, the responses were once again divided into two section with the question, “With the arrival of written questions, do you think you will have to give more effort behind studies to achieve better results?” 51.5% said yes while 48.5% said no, which made us conclude that this depends on the willingness and capability of the student.
We also asked the students for suggestions, what change they’d like to see in the education system. One response wished that the senior teachers and vice chancellors of every university should come together to discuss on how to make the admission process more lucid and error-free. Another response suggested to re-open the 2nd time option for all universities. One more asked the government to implement the system with more preparation. But the main point that majority focused on was how it seemed more and more unfair to judge a student based on a single exam. “Anyone can have a bad day! How would you judge them based on that?” one said. Another stated, “What about the student who is sick and can’t sit for the exam? We need to come up with an option for that.” One particular response stood out by saying they would do something that wouldn’t jeopardize the entire career of a candidate because they were unable to perform for a single day. The gist of the survey stands at, students are differentiated based on their views on a lot of things, but majority still think this isn’t the best time to implement the system and the government should pay more attention to details with such a crucial change.
Now a question arises. Do we really need this system? Or is this going to be another dead attempt of the government at trying to reform the education system of the country? It seems as though the government were out with a plan in mind, thinking about the welfare of its students, but they ended up taking a decision that left the candidates more confused than at ease. While a lot still lack knowledge about the new process, a lot are finding it hard to cope with. In this case, it is crucial that the government take adaptive measures which helps the students feel more comfortable about the sudden changes. Given the fact that people from both sides have presented some excellent arguments that should not be ignored, it would be a safer option had the government taken their time to go through each proposal and every possible outcome before coming to a decision. According to a study conducted by the UGC in May of 2013, they found that the average student has to spend TK 43,100 on coaching and other admission related expenditures. Although this seems absurd, top universities argue that public institutions should be autonomous. The education board has shown much competency in holding uniform examinations for medical colleges, so can they repeat this success for public universities? The tendency to politicize any and all institutions is widespread in our country, that brings its own set of challenges. The lack of governance and corruption has brought much disgrace to more public examinations like PEC, JSC, SSC & HSC. Will the government be able to fix the public image that examinations like these are highly unreliable at various occasions?
Therefore, it is most likely that the debate over public university admission tests will continue to heat up before the new cluster system comes into effect.