Ketan Bhatheja toiled throughout the year to score a high percentage in his Class 12 exams in the commerce stream. His aim was to study economics (hons) at one of the top Delhi University (DU) colleges such as Shri Ram College of Commerce, Hindu, Hans Raj, Kirori Mal, Ramjas or Sri Venkateswara. But after burning the midnight oil for months and scoring 95% in the best of four aggregate, Bhatheja has been struggling to secure a place in these preferred institutions.
“I didn’t get a seat at any of the popular North Campus colleges because the cut-off (in the first and second lists) for commerce students was kept higher than that for science students, which is unfair for students like me. Despite scoring such high marks, I’m not getting admission to the college of my choice, whereas science students who have not scored as high as I have, got in, which is bizarre,” says Bhatheja.
An alumnus of St Xavier’s School, Rohini, Bhatheja is unhappy with the ‘upper hand’ science students seem to have over their commerce counterparts at various levels and says that they should be treated equally.
“A common admission test can be one solution to this and the university must do away with cut-offs. One should be allowed to sit for a test if he/she wants to pursue economics or other commerce courses, and likewise, it should be the case for science and humanities courses so that each student gets a fair chance,” he argues.
Academicians have their own views on the issue. “Introducing one test at the national level is one possibility. A SAT-like test can be considered if it’s constructed well and handled professionally. Loopholes such as paper leaks, challenges in evaluation and technical glitches are other challenges that need to be addressed. At the same time, we need to be careful about what kind of a test do we need so that can assess whether a students has the aptitude to learn a subject at the undergraduate level,” says Shyam Menon, vice chancellor, Ambedkar University, Delhi.
With the cut-off marks at DU touching an all-time high and students not being able to secure admission to their preferred college or programme, there has been a lot of debate over a feasible and fair solution so that aspirants can get what they want.
“One cannot overlook the fact that there’s been an unprecedented rush to DU this time. As per the new admission policy, colleges were made to speculate on the cut-off marks. Also, the fact that the quality of undergraduate education (in the country) has come down is affecting the number of applicants at DU.
Currently, there are few cities, such as Pune, Patna, Allahabad, Mysore and Vadodara, where one can get access to good undergraduate-level education,” Menon adds.
This is also because there’s a natural aspiration among candidates to study at DU because of its brand value. It is, therefore, tough for the university to accommodate everyone. The university can at least make a beginning by taking small steps, suggests Kavita A Sharma, former principal, Hindu College.
“One is not to base its admissions on cut-off marks scored only in Class 12. It is unfair to decide a student’s future on just one, three-hour-long examination that comes at the end of 12 years of schooling,” says Sharma.
Another option is to launch a SAT-like test. “Since 1986, the National Education Policy has aimed to develop a National Testing Service for India. But that hasn’t happened so far. However, if DU can put some of these things in place, it will not only solve its problem but also show the way to other academic institutions. The university can take cue from other national-level entrance tests and set the trend for others to follow,” adds Sharma.
Shayama Chona, former principal, DPS, RK Puram, shares similar views. “A one-time SAT-like test can be considered to determine if one is capable for higher studies. An entrance exam of the league of the IITs can be introduced. One can even go for another test to determine the streams a student may opt for if needed,” says Chona.
In other words, how about a test which replaces multiple competitions for different disciplines including engineering, medicine, law, English, journalism and so on?