This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Madhubrata Bhattacharya. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Admission Fiasco At Jadavpur Uni: Is The English Entrance Test Fair Or Elitist?

It is a sunny July day at Jadavpur University. Sheltered from the sun beneath the canopy of the Arts building, a bunch of postgraduates stand and talk. All of them belong to the Department of English. A couple of them have recently returned from Europe, and the group laughs about the continent’s propensity for wine. The conversation turns to a posh private school in the city many of them are from, and those not in the know exchange a few uncomfortable glances.

Just then, a younger girl rushes into the scene, panting, backpack unzipped. Her hair is the short, natural kind ubiquitous to girls on this campus, and she holds a notebook, proffered to the general public. She is a second-year undergraduate, conducting a survey for her class, as instructed by the professor. Since then, students of the department have been faced frequently, on campus and on Facebook messenger, with some uncomfortable questions that demand to be answered: is the department elitist? If so, how? What do we do to rectify this?

These are not new questions. They have always been around, lining the corridors of the department, from the sunny ledges overlooking the professors’ rooms to the dusty stairs littered with cigarette stubs. They have been around, often muttered and marginal.

Everyone knows why they are plastered all over the walls now. These are doubts about the fancied revolutionary credential of the university and the department that cannot be cast away as a right-wing conspiracy. Or maybe they could have been, but amidst the humanities departments’ latest crusade, a postcolonial professor from Cambridge had approvingly shared an article on Facebook about the whole thing as being *gasp* elitist.

For years, admission to the department of English had been conducted through a test. The criteria for appearing in this test was not set high, and thousands would show up. The entire campus would be taken up to accommodate examinees, and current faculty and students, along with members of the alumni would volunteer to conduct it. Other humanities departments conduct tests too, but the English department believes its test to be the most iconic. Indeed, it is the one drawing phenomenal numbers.

This year, university authorities took upon the suggestion of an irate state education minister Partha Chatterjee, pushed to the edge by the disruptive students of Jadavpur University and Presidency University, to scrap admission tests at the undergraduate level and introduce a procedure of admission based on marks obtained in the end-of-school board examinations. Of course, students of colleges and universities across the state have rebelled against and resisted the tyranny of successive repressive state governments, but if students of JU and Presidency have appointed themselves the flag-bearers and gatekeepers of the revolution, the casting of them as bad eggs is a matter to gloat over.

Arrogance issues aside, Jadavpur University students, along with their professors, can be pretty good at getting things done. So, a complex series of protests, and teenagers risking their lives with hunger strikes later, admission tests were re-introduced. The extent to which this was a victory was debated, since half of the weightage in the selection procedure has been allotted to board examination grades. All this while, another debate has been brewing up.

Those campaigning for the re-introduction of admission tests have largely seen their partial victory as the right step on the road to something revolutionary – resisting the state. A counterview wishes to portray the entire ordeal as an elaborate theatricality of the bhadralok – the Bengali elite that comprises the ranks of spaces like Jadavpur University Department of English. It is a little mystifying as to how the alternate mode of admission is something more ‘subaltern’. After all, preparations for board examinations in the city are long drawn out procedures that feature expensive schooling, tuition centres and mock testing galore. This is not to say that admission tests are automatically more egalitarian, and much of the discourse in favour of the same within the department, and university at large, has been one of exceptionalism and elitism. It is a little amusing when the discourse around selection procedure – essentially a process of elimination, comes to centre around egalitarianism. Studying English in a postcolonial country, some argue, is an inherently elitist endeavour, and can one accommodate the subaltern here? Can the subaltern read Shakespeare or Spivak? To add to this, English in India is not simply a subject of study or a language of communication, it is immense socio-cultural capital.

At the end of the day, it can be both true – doing away with admission tests is a bad idea, and the department of English, here and in many places else, has severe problems it had better address. The entirety of this debate brings us, really, to the paradox of public education in India. School education becoming increasingly privatised means socio-economic class and financial resources becoming increasingly important to access to quality education, and impeded social mobility, this goes without saying.

The recent fiasco at Jadavpur is only one in the line of reminders of the threat public universities, and the humanities in particular, increasingly face in India. It points also, however, to the problems within these public universities – quality public education is scant and busy gloating over low acceptance rates; and eligibility procedures can never completely free themselves of class impediments.

The admission exams test a great many things that are required for the study of English literature at the university level and the acquisition of many of these skills does not rest solely upon the student applying. In a country where English is the only remotely acceptable way to study literature, if at all, choices become narrower. Students mould themselves to fit the right department rather than seek out the departments that fit them best. These are not problems that can be addressed in isolation, or in their entirety at the level of, or within the space of the university, but they are something to consider. Considering these does not dilute the importance of all the department, and the university have fought for. And besides, validity has never been a synonym for the perfect revolutionary.


Update: On July 5, Jadavpur University reversed its stand and scrapped the entrance test for 6 humanities subjects, including English. 

You must be to comment.

More from Madhubrata Bhattacharya

Similar Posts

By Imran Hasib

By Meemansa Narula

By Harshita Solanki

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below