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A common entrance exam for all colleges?

The draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019 has proposed common modular entrance examinations for college admissions to be conducted multiple times each year in various subjects, which could replace the entrance tests
held by various varsities.

With 95 per cent becoming the new 85 per cent in board exams and most cutoffs for popular courses staying above 96 per cent in best of four aggregate in Delhi University in 2018, the proposed policy, currently in public domain for feedback, could provide another criterion for undergraduate admissions.

The draft NEP proposes that these common tests be held multiple times in the year to give students flexibility over when they would want to sit for it. The exams would test students on logic and quantitative reasoning as well as their specialised subjects.

The NEP committee also called for parallel reforms in the assessment procedures in Class 10 and 12 board exams.

As per the draft, the entrance tests will be offered by the National Testing Agency. The new system will enable students to choose a range of subjects they are interested in, and each university will be able to see each student’s individual subject portfolio.

According to the draft NEP 2019, the negative effects of the board examination system were also seen in the university entrance examination system – in particular, there was a harmful coaching culture and further incentives for early specialisation and rote learning.

Taking a critical view of the way in which board examinations are being conducted, the NEP committee stated that this had “also systematically prevented optimal learning from taking place in a number of ways”. It said, “Examinations should also be learning experiences, from which one can learn and improve in the future; the current Board Examination system does not line up with these goals.”

The committee suggested that board examinations should be offered in a range of subjects to encourage holistic development and students be allowed to choose many subjects in which they can take board examinations, depending on their interests. It said the exams should also be made “easier” and should primarily test core capacities rather than months of coaching and memorisation. “The principles for university entrance examinations must be similar,” the committee said.

Reacting to the move, Deepak Pental, former DU vice chancellor said instead of making students sit for another test, CBSE and other boards must initiate reforms in their exam system. “The moot point is CBSE and other educational boards should reform and stop giving high marks. In their desire to achieve high pass percentage and high scores, they fiddle with marks. What we need is a national level monitoring committee to look at the board exams and students need to undergo slightly difficult level of exams.” He also said that increasing the number of entrance exams will restrict students to tuition centres.

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