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May 16, 2022 Monday 02:30:02 PM IST

Elimination Round or Aptitude Test- How to Align CUET with NEP 2020 Goals

Cover Story

Popular reality shows have large number of aspirants vying for an entry that will possibly make them a superstar. When there are thousands of applicants, the organisers conduct an elimination round where a singer or dancer may get hardly a few minutes to display their talent. Naturally, enough there are allegations not only about elimination round but also in the selection of winners in such competitions.

Every year more than 10 lakhs students compete across India for less than 10,000 seats in Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) through the IIT Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) and naturally enough the preparation for entry begins as early as 6th standard onwards. Similarly, every year over 16 lakh students appear for National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to 1.5 lakh medical seats in modern medicine, ayush, Bachelor of Dental Sciences and veterinary sciences. 

NEET had been criticised by Tamilnadu and a few other states as it widens the gap between the haves and have-not's. It doesn't take into account the regional disparities in education, economic inequalities in the country, according to M K Stalin, Chief Minister of Tamilnadu.  

CUET for UG Admissions

Now the Union Grants Commission has announced Common University Entrance Test (CUET) for entry to undergraduate courses in 45 central universities.  Now Tamilnadu, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh have strongly opposed the CUET as it is based on the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) syllabus which is not followed in state schools in the country. 

CUET is viewed by many as Narendra Modi government’s obsession with pushing the 'one nation, one standard' maxim in different sectors. CUET may not qualify as a wholesome determinant of merit given the educational and regional disparities in India, The Hindu wrote in its editorial.

Students have to answer multiple choice questions (MCQs). However, such examinations may not test the aptitude of a student for a particular course, according to Dr Burton Cleetus, Asst Professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.  That may be reason why Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) which conducts examinations for entry to Indian civil services has a multiple- choice questions format for preliminary examinations while having descriptive questions for mains examinations.  However, Dr Burton Cleetus notes that students who score well in descriptive examinations sometimes fare poorly in MCQ examinations. This is because descriptive examinations test the memory power not the reasoning or aptitude of a student.

Aptitude Test

Entry to leading institutions such as Indian Institute of Management, Indian Civil Services and Armed Forces follow a more stringent system of written examinations, group discussions, interviews, various type of physical and mental aptitude tests. This is a time-consuming process and may not be easily implemented for admission to Undergraduate courses in India.
However, suitable modifications in the entrance examinations can help assess the aptitude and capabilities of a student for a particular career, according to Dr Burton Cleetus.  Instead of asking a question about the year Panipat War took place, a short paragraph on Panipat war can be given and questions based on it can be asked that will test the analytical skills and aptitude of the student. 

Continuous Assessment

Entrance examinations always create an eco-system for mushrooming of coaching centres and this not unique to India. "If you look at countries having large common entrance examinations as in China and South Korea, students go for entrance coaching to clear those tests," according to Racquel Shroff, CEO of Global Education Solutions. However, in Australia there is no entrance test for admission to tertiary courses. The students have to explain why they are choosing a particular course and how it is connected to their backgrounds, she added. She is of the view that one test alone cannot test the aptitude of a student for a career or course. Australia follows a system of building a portfolio of activities for students from Sixth grade onwards as proof of interest or passion for a student in certain areas. These are mapped and along with academic grades, it serves as a reference for universities to choose candidates for admission. 

How to make students prepare for a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world?

According to Racquel Shroff, two theories are pertinent here. The Chaos theory of careers by Robert Pryor and Jim Bright and Social Learning Theory of John Krumboltz.

1. self-awareness and build transferable skills,
2. watch the job market and upskill
3. set agile goals -0flexible and short term
4. learn from mistakes and failures
5. accept change, take calculated risks.
6.The Social learning theory -John Krumboltz
7.Heredity, environment, experiences and task-approach skills
8.encourage students to be open to exploration and adapt when unexpected opportunities occur.

CUET is considered a game changer and is aligned with the New Education Policy 2020 goals and objectives. It does away with the excessive dependency on academic marks and grades But, it may require fine tuning to serve its intended purpose of assessment of 21st century skills of Generation-Z that are required to survive in the VUCA world and set the environment for continuous life long learning. 

Published in Pallikkutam, The Education Observer, May 2022. To read more such articles-Subscribe