Right at this moment candidates seeking admission to different universities, medical colleges and institutes are going through a most critical phase of life full of anxiety. Their grade point average (GPA)-5 is no guarantee for a placement in one of their desired higher seats of learning -least of all in their choice faculties or subjects. The test for undergraduate medical courses was taken first and, to its merit, once for all. This system has spared candidates of running from one college to another for appearing at multiple tests. So successful medical students have already got admitted to their designated colleges and other less fortunate are trying their luck in private medical colleges. The basis of their admission too is qualification in the medical test, thanks to the coordination.
However, the engineering universities still take admission tests separately. Why? These universities surely could follow the practice of medical colleges in the country. Even the general public universities could hold a single admission test in order to avoid hassles and needless costs involved. Candidates and guardians did not have to wait with bated breath for one after another written tests and their results. This is proving traumatic for parents and students.
Clearly, the competition here now proves more important than the score at the secondary and higher secondary levels. The utility of those scores is limited to the qualification points for sitting for such admission tests. The clinching factor now is to overcome the barrier of admission test. No wonder, this issue has placed the education minister and the university authorities into two opposing camps. The minister thinks that the question paper set for judging the merit of candidates has its limitations and is even flawed. This is because the percentage of pass is outrageously low.
First, it has to be admitted that the system of education at all levels has its flaws more than what is tolerable. Blaming the question paper won't do. Higher seats of learning like the Dhaka University (DU) may have many constraints in terms of research, internship, publication of papers and skill development but still these have to maintain a minimum of standard. Of course, political intervention in recruitment of teachers has remained a headache because it surely is nothing but a compromise on standard.
Results of different units of the DU have been published. To the dismay of most people, the percentage of pass ranges between 2.47 and 13.55. Candidates of the science discipline have to their credit the highest rate of pass but those of the business faculty has only 5.52 per cent pass. Other units had to settle for less than double digit percentage.
Clearly, of those who did not make it to the list of the successful candidates, many secured GPA-5 in both secondary and higher secondary examinations. The Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) set a benchmark in order to allow only 9,000 candidates to sit for the admission test. This is a criterion that has disqualified many GPA-5 with A+ in all subjects. The BUET made its selection on the marks obtained in science subjects.
Sure enough no admission test can be perfect -least of all when a candidate's merit has to be judged on a summarised question paper carrying 100, 200 or 300 marks. But then if students learn their subjects well, they should at least obtain the minimum pass marks. The DU has set this benchmark at 48.
The problem with the education system is that it has discouraged originality and creativity in the name of introduction of structured question papers called otherwise but wrongly a creative system. This is a gross injustice to the talent of students. Repeated practice of enormous volumes of materials courtesy of guidebooks and coaching centre-developed papers help students score the highest grades in secondary and higher secondary examinations.
Even admission test may not avoid such oft-repeated questions. But the number of such questions is likely to be few. The majority of questions set take a test of candidates' academic knowledge in appropriate disciplines and beyond. It is the stunted growth of students that is actually responsible for this situation. Had they been able to appreciate learning and question why something was so, they needed no notes prepared by tutors. Their inquisitiveness was supposed to be satisfied by teachers in classes.
Such a system of two-way channel of communication in class is missing altogether now. Spoon-fed, students hardly learn anything in class. Even the homework and class work are just reproduction of notes made by teachers or senior students who inherited those from tutors. There lies the fault line of the country's education at the primary and middle stages. Higher education suffers from different kinds of constraints. Knowledge creation and innovation are the staple of education at the tertiary level. To do this, there is need for investment in education and creation of facilities.
Students and scholars from Bangladesh are proving their talents in foreign universities or research centres because they have the facilities and proper environment there. The system of higher studies there is based on scholarly search for the unknown and pursuance of dreams against all odds. Collaboration of businesses and higher seats of learning provides them with the steam to go ahead. So there is a need for reviewing the country's education system in order to make it responsive to the challenges of the time. This is what can spare the nation any such admission faux pas.