NET …Set…Go!


India is unique for its way of development. On one hand, it is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with an average growth rate around 7%– something that many countries can only dream about. On the other hand, India has a population pool multiplying and growing at tremendous rates, annually. One of the opportunities, as well as the challenges, that India will face in the coming years would be concerned with its huge chunk  of  untrained, unskilled, and mismanaged human resource; a population without any skill development will not only continue to live under poverty, but will also act as a constraint over the rest of the population. Realizing the value of human resource, India has made space for a Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and not just a Ministry of Education. Rather than aiming at mere education, Delhi has been concerned with achieving holistic development, especially for its younger population.

One of the ways to bring in development (and not mere growth) in the society would be by ensuring that there are innovations and research taking place in the larger academia. This depends upon the ability of the nation to produce quality human resource, often in the form of lecturers and researchers, who peruse different paradigms and arrive at conclusions that can bring in drastic changes in our lives. The need for a centralized evaluation scheme like National Eligibility Test (NET) and its proper imposition in the country for selecting scholars to fill the vacancies of research institutions thus becomes relevant once again, given the issues and problems in the recently held exam.

The National Eligibility Exam or NET is an exam conducted by Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on behalf of Union Grants Commission (UGC) to select qualified individuals from the post-graduate students in country for granting them with lectureship and research fellowships. The exam, as per the recent notification, would consist of two papers– the first paper will be common for all subjects, and the second paper will ask discipline-specific questions. Once an individual crosses the cut-off percentage, they would have been certified to teach in any graduate or post-graduate colleges across the country.

The reason why the NET exam has been a matter of furious debate between its organizers and the candidates is because of the way the exams were conducted and later evaluated. Many complain that the exam, which has objective Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQ), is not an apt way of assessing one’s grasp of the subject matter. This is particularly controversial when it comes to Arts and Humanities. The exam has created a situation wherein a student’s knowledge of subjective disciplines is being tested through MCQs. Additionally, the first paper requires quantitative skills, thus putting say a social science student at an unfair and disadvantageous position. The newly announced pattern accords a weightage of 33.3% to the first of the two sub-exams, thus making it difficult for students from a non-mathematical background to crack the exam.

There have also been concerns about the way exam has been carried out over years. In several cases, examination centers allotted were in remote locations and many students were given odd timing. Many candidates reportedly struggled to find transportation on time.

It has been reported that more than 44% of the total lectureship positions in State and Central universities are left vacant across the country. The number would further surge if we account for all colleges, private universities, and other apex research institutions. For a country like India, which aspires to grow on the wings of its human resource, these statistics show no hope.

One way the NET exam could be made more efficient would be to bring the exam under the proposed National Testing Agency (NTA), and then assigning the task of setting up evaluation criterion to the reputed institutions in each discipline. For instance, the organizers may consult Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) for setting up evaluation criteria for social sciences like Economics, Sociology, Anthropology, etc.

The government’s decision to set-up an exclusive agency to conduct exams in the country is a welcome move, and so is its plan to restructure the scheme of the NET exam. However, India is still far away from the optimal; there are several areas that require urgent attention. Reforms must be carried out in the coming years to help manage the shortage in the availability of qualified academia if the country wishes to produce quality research outcomes and innovations.

-Contributed by Jiss Palellil

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