In last two years, higher education institutions are squabbling with questions of discrimination, prejudice, lack of transparency, and scuttling of students’ voice. We have seen a protest against the appointment of FTII chairman at Pune, death of Rohith Vemula at Hyderabad, sedition charges against students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and several others in another part of the country.
Recent is the suspension of nine students of JNU for protesting against reducing viva marks in JNU entrance test from thirty to ten. JNU itself had constituted Abdul Nafey committee to look into the cases of discrimination in viva marks with scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and other backward caste communities. The committee observed the discrimination and suggested to reduce the viva marks for fair, just and transparent admission process. However, JNU administration has put this committee report in the garbage and decided to follow more suppressive admission procedure by raising the weight of viva marks to hundred percent from this year onwards. The publication of entrance prospectus is in the process, and students belonging to backward communities are on indefinite hunger strike. The core issue is that is this a fair and just policy for the better higher education system in India, why we are more relying on interview marks than written scores, how it is going to affect the demography of universities.
India has its top Indian Administrative Service Examination conducted by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) every year. There is hardly any incidence observed where discrimination is based on caste and religion during the entrance process. That’s why the dalit girl and Muslim boy come first in it, which is somehow approving to its fair, just and transparent examination policy. Vital is the process of examination when written part plays a crucial role. On the other hand, the world best exams for higher studies, i.e. GRE (Graduate Record Exam), TOEFL, IELTS, etc. based on ensuring better objectivity and transparency, which aims to reduce human biases virtually. The point I would like to press here that the process to intake to the higher education system in India should attempt to think in this direction and go away with such draconian policy which rejects efficiency, transparency and fairness at large. It should work as possible to reduce the spaces that likely to increase chances of subjectivity and biases and hundred percent weight to interview is one of it.
Secondly, the proposed system of hundred percent value to viva marks will also lead to scuttled voices of ordinary students, who raise voices against the wrong development policy in and out the institutions. Students will have to toe down to their teachers and supervisors for scoring good marks during the admission viva process, i.e. BA to MA, MA to M.Phil, M.Phil to PhD if someone wishes to pursue from the same university. The essential point is that it is going to curtail freedom of speech and independent thinking, which is a core value of the higher education. Gandhi Ji says that acquiring learning of any kind is persistent questioning and healthy inquisitiveness. While great educationist Paulo Freire proposed the idea of teaching to conscientization. Moreover, the need of time is to implement these ideas in our education system and make it a core agenda for better India. We can make better India with better education and better governance. Better governance has one of the major indicators voice and accountability. Voice should not be of the single or majority, but it should be of different groups and communities. And, therefore, recognition and representation of unheard voices in the present higher education system are imperative, and the government should immediately address it.