The introduction of the Common University Entrance Exam (CUET) is fine as long as the problems and rights of the students of the remote areas are addressed. One should be surprised that UGC have full confidence in implementing CUET in all central universities, which are urban-centric, and have no benefit for the students of the rural areas and the underprivileged people.
CUET is being introduced for admission to all UG programmes under the pretext of providing quality education. Providing quality education appeared in the middle of the road and ambushed everything. The question lies whether quality education should start at the bottom or at the top. CUET will deprive students pursuing higher studies of their rights. One can clearly say that it is not meant for students lacking basic facilities, infrastructure, transportation, network connectivity, and for socially and economically backward students. Have they chosen CUET over dropouts, unemployment? There should be no division among students. Looking at the brighter side of the issue, it is high time that we learn to adapt to the situations for the survival of the fittest. But at the cost of losing 80% of students? What will come out of it? What will be the future of these students?
The sole purpose of CUET is to ease the admission process in universities, especially in metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai etc. and other big cities. What will it cost the students? It will start with tuitions starting from around Rs 5,000, besides application fees, transportation fees, cyber fees, and fooding and lodging etc. during the exam. Most of the students can hardly afford such luxury. Why should we not accept CUET? It is simple, students need not spend thousands of rupees just to go through the admission process.
As a result, there is a chance of high dropouts for which UGC would not be proud of. In fact, one of the goals and objectives of Educational Planning is to reduce the number of dropouts. Now, what happens to the students who cannot clear CUET? What is the alternative?
One cannot kill two birds with one stone. Toiling with MBOSE syllabus for more or less 14 years in school has been ambushed by NCERT making it redundant because the only option to clear CUET is NCERT. With that, one cannot expect students to clear this entrance test. The only option left is coaching class. The irony is one of the objectives of CUET is to provide equal opportunities to the candidates, especially those from rural and remote areas. One should understand that in a state like Meghalaya, remote area implies no transportation, no internet service and no exam centres. This is the reason why CUET will have a huge impact on the lives of the students in the state of Meghalaya.
One major concern is that NEHU falls under sixth schedule area. One cannot bulldoze such orders without the protection of the rights of the tribal people. Though UGC made it clear that all India reservation policy is not necessary; universities can follow their own respective reservation policies, but the number of students clearing CUET will be reduced to nought, (few might make it, those who can afford tuitions) due to various factors.
One of the objectives of NEHU is to pay special attention to the improvement of the social, and economic conditions and welfare of the people of the hill areas of the northeastern region. Though, NEP 2020 is yet to be implemented in the state, it aims to ensure that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of the circumstances of birth and background. According to Secondary Education Commission 1952-53, the Commission has remarked that 80 percent of the Indian population falling in rural area is being deprived of the benefits of university education. Moreover, the university education is not patterned on the needs and aspirations of the rural people.
Will the state play the role of deus ex machina to end the plight of students? Since the education department falls under the Concurrent list, the state stands a chance of disapproving the implementation of CUET. If the state implements CUET, should the state also start its own university so that the deprived students get an option? Or the state government should implement NEP 2020, whose policies will provide equal opportunities for the underprivileged?
While the state promised two exam centres, the western part of the state has none. Students have to suffer moving from one place to another with no guidance and support. We can say that the state is in dilemma whether to start new exam centres in Garo Hills within a limited time. Will God from the machine save the students from the unfair means of providing higher education?
Thomas M Marak