We have long heard of introduction of a 'unified' or 'cluster system' of admission test at our public universities. But no progress to that end has yet been discernible. In the absence of a 'uniform' or 'cluster system' of admission test, students have to buy forms of different universities, not being sure about getting admission to the university of their choice. This puts a big financial burden on the students, especially the poor meritorious ones living in remote parts of the country. I can remember the days of Ershad regime when frequent general strikes had engulfed the whole country. My entrance to university took place during those turbulent days. I had to come to Dhaka and then to Jahangirnagar many days spending sleepless nights. Very often on arrival at the university we came to know that the admission test had been cancelled for an indefinite period. It was not circulated that much. Maybe, it was limited to a tiny press release which escaped the attention of many admission seekers. Candidates used to come to Dhaka and then move to different parts of the country facing different problems. We then thought why the university authorities were not introducing a 'unified admission test' system to ease the trouble caused to the admission-seekers. Since then, about four decades have passed. Still no much headway has been made to that end.
Seven years ago, an initiative was taken to introduce a uniform examination system for admission to public universities to reduce the trouble faced by students and guardians at the time of admission tests held separately in different parts of the country. Only the country's medical colleges have implemented this uniform examination system in which the students sit only for one test and are selected for the colleges as per their merit. It's a good system and our public universities can easily follow it. This one-test system would save on fees and accommodation and transportation costs and lessen hassles faced by the admission seekers.
The Chancellor of public universities and President of the country understood the matter. So, he directed the University Grants Commission and the Ministry of Education to introduce a 'unified' or 'cluster' admission test system to lessen the harassment, hassle and mental stress of students. But the Vice-Chancellors of public universities hardly attach importance to it. Some of them argue for running the admission tests in the present style, because--(i) all subjects are not available at all universities. So, it will create problems for the admission seekers to choose subjects, (ii) when students have the option to sit for several admission tests in several universities, they have the chance to get access to higher education in any of the universities, (iii) the 'unified' or ' cluster system' tends to lessen their individual freedom. The students may get admission to a university through this kind of admission system, though they don't like it, (iv) it's a source of income of the universities, when admission tests are conducted separately, teachers also have an extra amount of income through these tests, (v) if admission tests are conducted under a 'unified' or 'cluster system', the teachers of the universities may have to move across the country. These reasons can be attributed to the reluctance of the university authorities, particularly big universities, not to introduce a unified or cluster system of admission test. But these reasons hardly have any merit or seem less convincing compared to the problems admission seekers and their families practically face every year. Under the 'unified or 'cluster system' admission seekers will put their choice in the admission forms. Their admission test results, academic performance at the SSC and HSC levels and chronological choice will determine which subjects or departments they will be selected for and which universities they will study in.
In 2017 a total of 801,711 students passed the HSC examination. Out of them, 37 thousand 969 students achieved GPA-5. A total of 216,287 students obtained marks between GPA-4 and GPA-5. A total of 47,636 seats for higher education are available at the public universities barring the National and Open Universities. In 30 government medical colleges, three thousand 212 seats are available. Six thousand seats are available in 64 private medical colleges. In nine government dental colleges there are 567 seats and in 14 private dental colleges 890 seats. In six government university and textile colleges there are 480 seats, one government marine academy has 300 seats, and in 17 non-government marine academies there are 1,360 seats. There are two international universities that can accommodate 350 students. Moreover, 96 private universities can accommodate 189,000 students.
All the students who passed the HSC examination this year will not be able to receive higher education in prestigious institutions. It is not necessary also for all to receive higher education but alternative system for them should have been available in the country. Moreover, if anybody wants to receive higher education, it is not necessary that it should be from any state-owned university. An alternative system should have been there to satisfy their needs.
Jahangirnagar University will conduct their admission test between August 8 and 18 this year. BUET will hold theirs on October 14, Rajshahi University on October 22-26, Chittagong University on October 22-30, Ismail University on October 25-29, Bangladesh Agricultural University on November 04 and Shere-e-Bangla Agricultural University on December 01. It means the admission tests in universities will continue throughout the whole months of November and December. The National University will start distributing admission forms from August 24. Dhaka and Jagannath Universities will declare their admission tests later on. The Dhaka University admission test will take place in the morning and Jagannath University will conduct theirs the same day. If admission tests can be conducted under a 'unified' or 'cluster system, it could be completed in three to four days which might drastically reduce the hassles faced by admission seekers.
University authorities cannot ease nor do anything with our chaotic traffic system and the problems on roads. They cannot change the sale of unhygienic food in hotels. But they can definitely change the system of admission test so that the admission seekers are not thrown into a sea of problems. Arrangements must be made so that the students can take part in the admission test in their own district towns or at best in their respective divisional towns. The university authorities should introduce it immediately in the greater interest of the nation.
The writer works for BRAC Education Programme and previously served in cadet colleges.
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