Friday, May 24, 2024

Of CUET and Meghalaya


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An entrance exam intended to provide equal opportunities to all Indian students while eliminating subjective bias in evaluation processes has turned out to be a nightmare for Shillong students. I am writing to express my disgust and outrage at the service provided by the National Testing Agency (NTA) through North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) to aspiring students on May 15, 2024, at the NEHU Shillong campus. The viral videos, which showed aspiring students struggling to get through a single test, have probably, shocked everyone. The students had to wait for hours to take the test, and some fainted amid the chaos in the NEHU Shillong campus. Imagine the trauma they went through!
Now one is left to wonder why the testing centres lacked proper organisation and coordination. Is it due to utter apathy or outright incompetence on the part of the officials and personnel involved? It appears that the NEHU coordinators were not adequately prepared to deal with any unforeseen circumstances that could arise. The videos depicting what the students experienced today were painful to watch.
The incident at NEHU today demonstrates that the state machinery and the concerned agency were unprepared to hold and administer the Central University Entrance Test (CUET) within the state. Moreover, other Shillong centres, like Lady Keane College and St. Anthony’s College, successfully conducted the same CUET without any issues. Who will bear the responsibility for such failures? Will NEHU officials, as well as Rakkam A. Sangma, the Education Minister, take action to address this issue?
Such unjustified harassment of the student community must end once and for all.
Our students are not laboratory rats!
Yours etc.,
Dr David Feral
Via email

Scrap the CUET

In 2022 when NEHU recommended the CUET test for admission into the colleges in the state, I wrote an article in The Shillong Times titled, “Is the Common Test Necessary?” (ST, April 25, 2020), wherein I questioned the rationale of such an entrance test in a state like Meghalaya. Apart from raising concerns over the lack of infrastructure for conducting the test for thousands of students who have passed their Class 12 exams, I pointed out the senselessness of such an exercise, where most students prefer to study only in the state. Why don’t we admit students based on marks they have obtained in the CBSE or MBOSE exams that they have completed? In what way are the CUET marks superior to the marks that they secured in their 12th standard in the state or central boards? The civil society organizations in the state that understood the problem opposed the CUET in 2020 and brought pressure on the state government to seek exemption for the state. On its part, the state government sought exemption for the first two years, but it seems it buckled under pressure this year and allowed the NTA to hold the exams with the help of NEHU administration.
If the NTA, NEHU and state government are so particular about holding the exam, they should have worked on it for the last two years to create the necessary infrastructure and human resources to conduct the examination. They should have had more centers in the state and should have trained the personnel to conduct the test smoothly. What happened on May 15 in NEHU campus clearly indicates that the authorities responsible for the execution are in no way prepared for the task. Everywhere there was panic, confusion and tension. No proper direction, no parking, no traffic management. Why should the students and parents go through such a hell to get college admission? How can we expect the students to perform well in the exams when they don’t know where the exams are held and whether they can enter on time into the examination halls?
What happened in NEHU on May 15 is an absolute crime against the young students, who have just passed their higher secondary exams. Just because the colleges in the state are affiliated with NEHU, they have to undergo all this hell. In a state like Meghalaya, where infrastructure is limited and majority of the students are poor and can’t afford to go outside the state for education, the CUET makes little sense. Yes, the state can still hold the CUET for those local students who wish to study outside the state. If the intention of the UGC is to encourage diversity and let students from outside also come and study in Meghalaya, then one can reserve ten to fifteen percent of seats in the state for outsiders based on their CUET score. But the rest 85 percent seats should be for the locals. Their scores in the Class 12 exam is enough to decide their admission. There is no need for the CUET. It is high time everyone in the state from the State Government to NEHU to the civil society organizations- demand for scrapping the CUET for admission of locals to colleges within the state.
Yours etc.,
Prof. H. Srikanth
NEHU, Shillong

Students-the new refugees

May 15, 2024, set out to be a new educational canvas for students, but was soon blemished with the mark of chaos, mental and physical fatigue and failure. This was not the failure of students but of the organizing heads who failed to conduct the CUET for 3000 youth of Meghalaya. While students in other test venues were done with their first paper, chaos reigned at NEHU with the staff and students struggling over the first step of the examination procedure. Worried statements buzzed through the state, doubting the Government’s competence to manage an important exam such as the CUET.
The bedlam began with students rushing to a single spot where their room allotments were announced on an A4 size sheet, expected to be read by 3000 students. While the management and NEHU staff were seen walking around with tea and biscuits, the students were scurrying around the campus like confused mice. With unspecified building numbers, the students rushed through the campus in the pouring rain, and at 3 pm entered their allotted rooms, only to be faced by technical problems in the biometric gadgets which were needed to identify them and to officially mark their attendance. Soaking wet, and drenched in cold rain water, they were to sit in the rooms and await further instructions. The exam, supposed to start at 3:00 pm, started hours later at 5:15 pm, with frequent problems regarding the improper attendance procedures. As the first paper ended, with utmost struggle, students from the rural areas of Meghalaya were compelled to withdraw from the second examination with the onset of the night, leading to a large number of students missing the compulsory exam.
A teacher from NEHU stated that a number of teachers in charge of management were themselves new to the field, and that the organizing committee should have arranged a team of experienced teachers. NEHU has held many competitive exams in its premises for years, but that day was the first time that such a mess happened. It points to the negligence of the organizing head, and the attention it pays to the importance of the CUET examinations in our State. What went wrong on the first day of the CUET examination, demands serious introspection with the organising committee learning the lesson of their lives. Teachers and parents who have shown empathy towards the distraught students, have requested the Government and its State leaders to consider this year’s CUET exams as mock/practice exams, and to cautiously prepare better for next year’s examinations instead.
At the moment the students are pleading that the colleges should accept admissions through the HSSLC results of students. If they strictly abide by the Central government, regarding this new education system which needs, at first, firm foundations and preparations in our State of Meghalaya, the youth would be doomed with an unclear future. Let this writeup voice the silent struggles and anxiety of the thousands of youth, searching for a clear path to their hopefully clear future and appeal to the Government and institutions for considerate actions.
Yours etc.,
Iaphilaniewkor Thangkhiew
Via email


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