A S M Sazzad Hossain, Banker
The number of universities is increasing, so is the number of applicants. Applicants and their guardians have to travel from Teknaf to Tetulia, allegorically speaking, for seeking and ensuring admissions into public universities.
Though public universities now take admissions on their own, there is no denying the fact that the admission system has become a real problem and painful for the applicants and their guardians. The pain is all the more excruciating if the applicants are female as hardly can they move with friends given the prevailing security concerns.
A good number of public universities have been established at various corners of the country. This was expected to assuage the problem to a degree. Maybe, this has smoothened up the scenario for many. However, the desire to get admission into the desired university cannot be ignored as far as the meritorious students are concerned. Though some may remain content with having the opportunity to get admitted into a university near his/her residence, this might not be sufficient for all the applicants. Thus, the longing for getting admitted into the preferred university propels such students, and very rightly so.
Though the universities are taking admission tests applying mainly the multiple choice types of questions, there is debate as to the propriety of the tests. The admission tests have been termed by many as tests of memory, not of merit as most of the questions concentrate on literature, history and general knowledge that basically test the memories of the applicants, rather than the aptitudes and analytical abilities. Sometimes, the analytical parts are too difficult for the students at this stage of their cognitive development. In fact, the multiple choice system itself has harmed our primary and secondary education systems.
The issue of applicants not being able to secure pass marks in many admission tests of various universities has also appeared as a real concern. Kind of complaints and counter-complaints have marked the issue. Some point out that the primary and secondary education systems are not being able to produce competent students to secure even pass marks in the admission tests. The counter-point is that the questions posed in the admission tests are too tricky for the HSC passed students and hardly represent what they learnt up to the HSC level.
As regards the nature and content of the admission test questions, there is, in fact, a dilemma. It is not baseless that the admission test questions subsume many questions of the tertiary level which are supposed to be beyond the SSC and HSC passed students. As thousands of applicants apply for limited number of seats, a mechanism for elimination has to be there. Maybe, for facilitating the elimination process, the question setters go for putting questions that are beyond the reach of the applicants. This elimination technique, too, requires rethinking. Large number of fails in the admission tests may be an offshoot of such questions.
To give applicants admission on the basis of GPA secured in SSC and HSC levels has also surfaced forcefully as an option insofar as university admission mechanism is concerned. However, the number of GPA 5 holders across the country far outweighs the number of seats in the public universities. Moreover, the manner in which GPA 5 is dished out these days has also raised many eyebrows. There is a well-founded criticism that the authorities tend to prompt the examiners to be much too lenient in awarding good scores to the students. Thus, GPA score as the basis of university admission is a flimsy one.
Anyway, the pain of the applicants and their guardians seem to have touched even the President of the country as he has recently urged for taking admission tests in an integrated manner. In fact, many, inside and outside, of the government have long been prodding the universities to take admission tests in an integrated fashion like the medical admission test. Though there is certain point in taking an integrated test, the modus operandi needs to be fixed after consultations among the universities. For the greater interests of the applicants from various regions, the universities are expected to do away with the petty interests.
Here, the much talked-about issue of huge amount of money out of admission tests is, in fact, an overstatement as the amount is insignificant for most of the teachers. Moreover, as the teachers are the moral guardians of the nation, it is not at all difficult for them to forgo the opportunity of an amount of money out of the admissions tests. In comparison to the sufferings of the applicants and their guardians, the lure of some money fades away. To make things comfortable, however, the government can arrange for allocating block allocations for the universities for the admission purpose.
The bottom line is that if the highest authorities of the universities come forward with open hearts and pragmatic suggestions, an effective formula will not be unattainable. The government can facilitate the process by asking the universities to take the issue with due seriousness. However, pressurisation tactic will be counterproductive. Management and security issues, especially leakage of question papers, are real concerns in this regard. To be candid, leakages of question papers have tarnished many public examinations in the country.
As the integrated system involves a huge task and the issue of the integrity of the test is a crucial one, it is not at all easy to put things into practice right away.
However, a start has to be made. Taking examination from one focal point with centres all over the country will be the best option. If it is not possible in the beginning, there may be clusters of universities for taking admission tests for the respective clusters. Most importantly, the public universities should start the rethinking process sooner rather than later so that they can come up with something fruitful from the next academic sessions and thus alleviate the long-standing sufferings of the applicants and their guardians. Our education minister and Bangladesh government should take proper steps. We should improve our education system more and also take proper steps against question paper leak.