Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid yesterday termed the existing enrolment system at public universities faulty and suggested a uniform system to better assess students and minimise their hassles.
“A one-hour admission test through an MCQ examination cannot truly assess the quality of a student,” he told journalists while presenting the results of the HSC and equivalent exams of 2014 at the secretariat.
Under the current arrangements, each public university takes admission tests mostly through multiple-choice questions (MCQ) as per its own schedules.
Nahid observed that students seeking admission in public universities had to travel a lot to take the tests. The students, especially those from poor or middle class background, face hassles and financial burdens.
“The students travelling from far do not have good physical or mental status for such tests. So, it is obvious that even the highest GPA scorers may not get enrol in a public university.”
He made the comments at a time when several lakh students are preparing to take admission tests for limited seats in their long-cherished educational institutions.
The number of seats at the 34 public universities is just around 50,000, education ministry officials said.
On the other side, 24 public and 54 private medical colleges have around 8,000 spots, while 10 dental colleges have around 1,500 seats, according to Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council.
Nahid said he supported a uniform admission system so that candidates could appear for only one exam instead of different tests at different universities.
In the absence of such an arrangement, admission seekers have to buy several admission forms and spend a huge amount on travel, food and accommodation.
To end such hassles, the education ministry in 2010 decided in principle to introduce a “cluster system” suggesting that universities of similar characteristics be brought under an individual cluster with a single admission test.
But the system could not be introduced in the last four years, as many of the public universities did not agree to it since the existing one was directly linked to financial benefit for teachers, said the officials.
For example, science and technology universities might be brought under a cluster and agriculture universities under another. In that case, candidates would sit for admission tests only twice for a place in any of the universities belonging to those two clusters.
It has also become a matter of pride for the university teachers, they observed.
“Public universities are autonomous. They make their own decisions. Though the government bears almost 100 percent expenditures, we have no power on the universities,” Nahid said.
Presently, the public and private medical and dental colleges follow a uniform admission system where students sit for one test. Those passing the tests are admitted according to their merit.
Asked, educationist Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam said the present system of admission in the public universities was ludicrous.
“These universities do not agree to the cluster system because they earn a huge amount of money by selling forms,” he told The Daily Star.
There are many students from rural areas for whom answering 100 MCQs in one hour might be scary, said Prof Islam of English department at Dhaka University.
“I wonder if the coaching business is somehow linked to the admission system,” he said.
“There can be MCQs, but there should also be written exams to assess the students,” said Prof Islam.
He suggested upgrading the district and divisional colleges to address the admission crisis, as many seats of those institutions remain vacant.
“Most of all, education budget must be increased to 20-25 percent of the GDP. Improving quality in primary education can improve overall education quality,” he observed.