JNU Must Withdraw from CUET, Says Teachers' Body

The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers' Association also highlighted several issues with the common entrance test, including that it may disadvantage applicants from marginalised backgrounds.

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New Delhi: The Jawaharlal Nehru Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) has demanded the university withdraw from the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) for all courses, saying admission to any of the programmes has not yet taken place this academic year.

The teachers’ body highlighted the waste of teaching hours due to the delay in conducting CUET, at a press conference.

“The most immediate cause of this colossal waste of educational resources is the unthinking, chaotic and irresponsible ‘one nation, one exam’ policy embodied by CUET. The delays in the completion of CUET have disrupted the academic calendar of all participating Central universities and thus far none of them has been able to initiate admissions to its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes,” the JNUTA said.

CUET is a computer-based test conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) for admission to undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD courses for 45 Central Universities, including JNU and Delhi University. Earlier, only seven central universities used to conduct a common university entrance test.

The exam was conducted in six phases starting in July and the pattern of the exam was objective type. Students could attempt the test in 13 languages – Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati, Odia, Bengali, Assamese, Punjabi, English, Urdu and Hindi.

At the press conference, the teachers also expressed reservations about the CUET, including that it might put students from marginalised backgrounds at a disadvantage.

Speaking to The Wire at a press conference on Monday, September 12, regarding the drawbacks of CUET, JUNTA’s secretary Suchitra Sen said because the test is computer-based, students “need a particular kind of skills” to which applicants from marginalised backgrounds will not have access. “If these students do not have access to smartphones, how will they use computers? Unless you have 100% computer literacy CUET is going to be elitist,” she said.

“CUET is a completely new model and it was undertaken soon after the pandemic without even waiting for any kind of stabilisation,” she told The Wire

She said that JNU strives to provide access to education to people from all parts of India and has a deprivation point system for the benefit of students coming from regional and economically challenged backgrounds. According to the 2019-2020 JNU data, 50% of students come from rural provenance and 47% from families with incomes below Rs 12,000 per month. 

At the press conference, JNUTA identified loopholes in the CUET – from the exam process to the exam pattern.  One of the major issues is the proliferation of coaching centres, the teachers’ body said. 

The CUET for the undergraduate level was conducted but the results have not been declared yet and there is a lack of clarity about UG admissions and classes. Likewise, there is no clarity regarding admission to post-graduate courses.

According to JNUTA, the NTA was to conduct PhD-CUET but revoked the undertaking to 20 central universities – including JNU – and has asked universities to make their own arrangements. This might mean that there might be no PhD admission at JNU this academic year, the association said.

“How did we end up here? It is because broadly under the New Education Policy framework, we have ‘One Nation, One Exam’ policy – which means that across the universities you have this model. So there is no way to account for the diversity across universities,” said JNUTA secretary Sen.

“The JNU Act, for example, gives us a certain kind of autonomy to choose across disciplines. This kind of model which is best suited for selecting students and the admission process this is completely taken away from the university,” she added. 

The JNUTA also expressed concerns about the multiple choice question (MCQ) format of CUET.  To analyse the critical ability of students there must be subjective questions, the body’s representative said. 

JNU faculty conducted a survey to see how many international universities solely employ MCQ in PhD admissions and found that none of the 21 US surveyed follow this format, JNUTA revealed. 

“How can someone frame MCQ questions in linguistic subjects? What are we supposed to ask? Dates or names? Hence, multiple-choice questions are irrelevant,” said professor Ayesha Kidwai, who is the vice president of JNUTA

“Half of the university’s faculty members have not been promoted and because of the UGC regulation of 2016, there is a direct impact on the PhD seats. People are waiting to get promoted from assistant professor to professor,” she added.