The ordeal of an applicant over a fortnight during which she had to return from exam centres twice and is now worried sick about what awaits her on the date announced after the two deferrals mirrors the plight of students taking the maiden Central University Entrance Test-Undergraduate (CUET-UG).
The CUET, the sole entrance exam for admission to central universities, has been blighted by glitches from the first day (July 15), which have led to tests getting postponed and landed thousands of students in uncertainty.
The central government’s National Testing Agency (NTA), set up in 2018, is holding the exams on behalf of the University Grants Commission.The girl who was initially scheduled to sit for the exam on August 5 at a centre in Noida recounted to The Telegraph on Friday her experience.
“I went to give my CUET on August 5 but it was total chaos and complete mismanagement. There were too many parents and candidates and it took a very long time for them (the authorities) to allot seats and computers. It was way past the scheduled time to begin the test. Even after that, most computers were not working. I had to change four computers and none of them worked,” she said, requesting anonymity.
“The ones that did work were very slow and had problems of their own, such as wrong question papers being presented to the candidate. Eventually, nothing could be resolved and the exam was postponed to August 12,” the student said.
She said that when she reached the centre, the same as the one on August 5, there was a notice mentioning that the exam had been postponed again. “There was not a single NTA official at the centre. My paper has now been rescheduled on August 25,” the student said.
She is keeping her fingers crossed. “I only hope I will be able to take the test,” she said.
Thousands of students whose exams were deferred are among the 2.86 lakh candidates slated to take the sixth phase of CUET-UG between August 24 and 30. Technical glitches and computer malfunctioning have hobbled the exam, a problem compounded by complaints of question paper mix-ups. Students are anxious and educationists have questioned the preparedness for the exam.
According to a media release issued by the NTA, it has received emails regarding digital glitches faced by individual candidates. The release also spoke about issues regarding question papers.“Some of the candidates have also represented regarding sociology, general ability and Sanskrit question papers. Such requests are also being examined on a case-to-case basis using audit trail of individual candidates and report of the centres. The requests, if found feasible, the candidates will be appearing in Phase 6,” the media release said.
On August 4 and 5, students at some centres who were to take exams in the three subjects complained that they received question papers of other subjects. A faculty member at Jawaharlal Nehru University said the NTA conducts 15 different exams without adequate manpower. It does not have a full-time director-general. Vineet Joshi, an additional secretary in the education ministry, has been given additional responsibility of heading the NTA.
The Telegraph tried to get in touch with Joshi for a comment on the glitches but could not elicit a response. The JNU teacher said: “Take the example of the JNU entrance test for PhD admission. The university used to conduct the exam till 2018. It used to be held every year in May. After the responsibility of conducting the exam was handed over to the NTA in 2019, it could be held in May only the first time. The next two years, the exam was held around September. This year, the notification is yet to come. There is no need to hand over all exams to the NTA.”
He said every university decides its academic calendar. Now, the academic calendar is dependent on when the NTA holds entrance tests, the teacher said.“Till today, the PhD application forms have not reached JNU. It is already mid-August. The academic freedom of the universities is in a way getting subverted because of the dependence on the NTA. The government wants universities to no longer conduct their own exams and hand over charge to the NTA,” he said. Sudha Acharya, the principal of ITL Public School in New Delhi, said the way the CUET tests were being deferred pointed to lack of preparedness and also raised questions about the sanctity of the process.
“One can understand the cancellation of exams at a few centres. But it is going on endlessly,” Acharya said.