How Discrimination Is Built Into The UGC-NET System

Posted by Shubham Pandey in Campus Watch, Education
January 24, 2018

This morning I was checking the cut-off scores of different subjects for qualifying the NET-JRF exam, as mentioned on the CBSE website. I was surprised to see some unexpectedly high differences in the cut-off scores for different subjects.

For instance, for candidates of the unreserved category, it is around 57 for subjects like history and political science. On the other hand, the cut-off score is more than 75 for Maithali, Pali, Kashmiri, etc. At this point, I thought of looking for subject having the lowest and highest cut-off scores. To my surprise, these were Konkani (48) and folk literature (>80), respectively.

How does one interpret these results? Before jumping to any conclusion, I would like to discuss the criteria used by the examining body to make these results. Before the November 2017 exam, the UGC had a rule in place which mentioned 40% as qualifying. A merit list of all those above this threshold was prepared – and the top 15% in this merit list was selected.

This practice was highly absurd. So, the High court of Kerala directed the UGC to stop this discrimination. In turn, the UGC proposed a new rule to select only 6% of the total number of candidates who write the exam.

At first, this really sounds cool. In this way, the total number of slots were increased by little margin. But now, there are bigger loopholes and more scope for discrimination. How? Let’s examine it.

Suppose 1000 students chose to give the NET exam for the subject history. Here, we are assuming that majority were average as regards their preparation – with only a few who were excellent or very bad with the same. In other words, the sample is randomly distributed.

Out of these 1000 candidates, selecting 6% (that is 60) might seem to be fair enough (this may not be the case for some, though) to say that we have selected the cream of the lot. But, what if many of the students who wrote the exam performed equally true?

While this may not be the case for popular subjects, it is certainly probable in the case of those appearing for less-popular subject (like folk literature/Kashmiri). Consider that only 50 candidates chose to appear for such a subject. Say, 30 out of these 50 are highly-skilled – and eight have even published good articles. But, because of this rule, only three are going to ace the NET – no matter how well the 30 candidates performed in the test.

That explains the high cut-off scores for a few subjects, as discussed above. Because the sample size is small and the score is not randomly distributed, we can see how this absurd rule leads to discrimination. Its like filtering others to select only the select few – no matter how competent the others were.

In a way, we are just fighting amongst ourselves in order to put our leg on someone else’s neck to become eligible. It can said that such a phenomena exists in the case of some other exams too. However, the NET is especially important because it serves purpose of granting the eligibility for lectureship. And my eligibility is dependent on someone else’s competence or the total number of candidates. That’s the extremity of this absurdity!

The problem doesn’t end here. Many published answer keys are wrong – and the CBSE charges a substantial amount for one challenge. Often, even after a poor student manages to challenge it, nothing happens. In my opinion, the exam does not measure our capabilities as a teacher or our knowledge of the subject matter. Rather, it tests our ability to memorise facts. Looking at the question papers from previous years has made it sufficiently clear for me!

Those who think that clearing the UGC-NET exam is a symbol of their knowledge and skills are completely mistaken, in my eyes. For me, the dark truth is that it is one of those many bogus exams which have been forced on Indian aspirants. And then we cry that India is very backward when it comes to research activities!

I know it’s easy to talk about problems – but in a scenario where everyone is racing to touch the ribbon at the end, without any sense of the necessity and the validity of the race, it becomes important. In my opinion, there should be a fixed cut-off – say 80%. All those who attain this should be qualified. The question papers can be made more conceptual and analytic to test the research spirit, aptitude, creativity as well as their knowledge of the subject.

The bright minds of this country really need to think deeply to preserve the real talent and stop this nonsense race. But, first of all, as today’s youth and the policy makers of tomorrow, we have to learn to speak, and not just keep enjoying what we get, because of our fate.

Here are some other articles where people have raised severe concerns on the UGC-NET:

Why sitting for UGC-NET exam is a waste of time

The Height Of Absurdity

Why We Need To Rethink National Eligibility Test Or UGC NET

The Absurdity of the National Eligibility Test


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