Marks Or Interest: Time To Rethink Eligibility For Higher Education In India

The basic premise of higher education is to further one's knowledge in a specific area of study. In India, however, where emphasis is more on scoring more, students often end up settling for studying a subject which does not interest them.

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Marks Or Interest: Time To Rethink Eligibility For Higher Education In India

What should be the premise for college admission in India

New Delhi:  The basic premise of higher education is to further one's knowledge in a specific area of study. In India, however, where emphasis is more on scoring more, students often end up settling for studying a subject which does not interest them. The pressure to get into a good university and a course which can ensure a job after the degree is over often leads students into applying for a course which they are not enthusiastic about. The onus is as much upon the education system as it is upon society and peer-pressure. 

In India, based on academic qualification, a student can be admitted to any academic programme irrespective of their aptitude or interest for the programme. Let us consider the example of a Post Graduate programme in Arts. In India, for admission to any PG degree in Arts, any student with a Bachelor degree with the required minimum percentage in degree can sit for the entrance exam. 

Most of the PG entrance exams are objective in nature with some exceptions such as JNU which asks subjective questions in its entrance exams. Many Universities also grant admission purely on the basis of marks scored by a student in their Bachelor degree.

For Master programme in certain other disciplines such as engineering and technology, there is a nationally conducted exam which again is objective in nature and does not evaluate an applicant's actual interest for their subject stream. 

Now let's take a look at the admission process at some of the premier universities from around the world. 

Admission at International Universities: Based on Interest and Aptitude

For admission to a graduate (Master programme) course at Harvard University, an applicant has to upload transcripts, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, writing sample, and if the need be then additional academic documents. When applying to Cambridge University, an applicant requires to provide two academic references, transcript, a research proposal (for courses with some research component), and samples of work. 

Essentially, these universities which have remained and continue to stay among the top 10 universities in the world evaluate an applicant on the basis of their subjective knowledge of a subject, their particular view point and more importantly their interest in the subject. It is only after scrutinizing the applications and documents submitted alongside do these universities invite students for a personal interaction/interview after which they decide on the admission offer. 

Even for admission to an undergraduate programme, when applying through UCAS, which is the central application system for admission to universities in UK, students have to provide a personal statement. Personal statements require a student to explain their reason for studying a particular field and allow them to express their enthusiasm and interest for a particular field. 

At Stanford, for admission to undergraduate courses, an applicant needs to submit a counselor's recommendation letter, recommendation letters from two teachers, and a personal essay submitted by the student. Again, the personal essay is supposed to elaborate upon a student's desire to take up a particular subject and their specific reason for interest in the subject.

Cut-off based admission in India    

Again in India admission to undergraduate programmes at most of the Universities is based upon the marks scored by a student at Higher or Senior Secondary level. For admission to UG courses, universities declare cut offs, thus assessing a student purely on the basis of marks scored by them without any component to test a student's interest in studying the concerned subject. 

Even for degrees for which an entrance exam is conducted, the exams are objective in nature and only test a student's subject-specific knowledge completely leaving out the aspect of determining a student's interest and desire to study the subject. 

Good Grades Don't Guarantee Success: What Indian Education System Needs To Learn

So while, more students are going to college in India than the previous decade, more students are also pursuing a subject they might not have interest in because of the emphasis on a quantifiable eligibility criteria. 

Comments
Blame it on the technological boom or the lack of discipline-specific jobs (apart from research and training) for Arts, Social Science, and Humanities students, there is a bias among parents , who still largely make decision about what a child should study, toward profession-specific degrees. Till the country does not adopt a system where students are assessed and admitted to higher education based on interest, the biases will remain. 

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