The Supreme Court of India cancelled admissions of 634 entrants to the medical profession as these were part of the infamous Vyapam Scam in Madhya Pradesh. It speaks volumes on the malpractices in entrance examinations for professional courses, and also for recruitment for the much-coveted government jobs. State board examination centres are ‘auctioned’ in some states, differential rates for copying by self or proxy are well-known, as are the rates for getting a government job! Recently, an army recruitment examination had to be cancelled as the recruitment mafia intruded the security lines. In Bihar, a senior IAS officer, responsible for recruitment to government jobs, was arrested.
The phenomenon of education/entrance and recruitment mafia and its connivance with corrupt functionaries from within the system is now treated as a routine occurrence! People still recall visuals from Vaishali and the Bihar State Education Board scam of last year. Copying in board examinations, and also in entrance examinations conducted by various agencies—such as Vyapam in MP—is rampant. The recent decision to set up a National Testing Agency to conduct entrance examinations to professional and higher education courses is indeed a welcome step. One hopes the new agency shall evolve fool-proof ways to ensure transparency in its approach to restore public confidence in the system. It would also relieve the CBSE from the burden of conducting several such examinations, which was not its mandated assignment.
Professionally sound, fool-proof and secure entrance examination for higher education and public service eventually determines the quality of public governance system. It sets the standards of quality of higher education, research and innovations, and also the quality and efficacy in every sector of human activity, and that includes legislature, judiciary and the executive. Limitation of seats available within the higher education system is a major cause of concern. However, mushrooming of low quality institutions cannot be the solution. Hence, to ensure adequate levels of academic attainments and right inclination, certain standards have to be delineated and maintained. Hence, scrutiny at the entry level is a must. Seats available in professional courses such as medical, engineering and management have not increased in proportion to the rise in the numbers of aspirants.
India has achieved considerable, though not adequate, expansion of its education system across the board after Independence. In any system, large-scale expansion is invariably accompanied by dilution in quality if necessary precautions are not put in place. Concern is often expressed on the absence of Indian institutions of higher learning and universities on the list of global rankings. The quality issue in Indian education requires deft handling of several aspects, one of which is reforms in its assessment and evaluation system, a long-felt need that has only been addressed in bits and pieces. It is mainly because of an archaic examination and assessment system that out of around 1.5 million engineering graduates being produced by over 3,345 engineering institutions (data of 2014-15), one-third may not get any job! Those lucky to get one have no alternative but to accept low pays. It creates a lasting demoralisation.
It also often emerges from surveys conducted by reputed professional agencies that around 85 per cent are unemployable and need additional education and training! Only over 52,000 young persons come out annually with a MBBS degree in India, an abnormally low figure for a population of over 1.30 billion! In some way, this is also a factor that leads to massive malpractices in entrance tests. One sincerely hopes that the new mechanism for entrance tests shall ensure internal efficiency and shall be manned by people of unimpeachable integrity.
J S Rajput
Former director of the NCERT