Why there’s a lack of English medium students applying to public universities

Photo: Prabir Das

Public university admission season is right around the corner, so prepare for an influx of worried parents waiting outside of exam centres and sitting in traffic for hours. Students from all backgrounds gear up for one of the most significant exams of their lives. However, it's commonly seen that participation from English medium students is comparatively much lower. I'll attempt to shed light on a few of the major reasons why.

Going abroad 

A common trend for most English medium students is that they tend to pursue their higher education abroad. They're fixated on applying to foreign universities, completing the Common Application, and writing personal statements. Some have financial backing while others go the extra mile to get scholarships. Since that is their main priority, applying and prepping for public universities takes a back seat. 

After I graduated, I saw 80 percent of my friends leave for overseas while the rest opted for private universities in the country. There's a logical reason for that, too. The distinction between private and public universities is that the system of the former is more in line with foreign universities. It is easier to transfer credits and shift abroad later. Those who did not get a chance to enrol abroad straight after high school can do so after studying in the country for a year or two without losing any time. This flexibility appeals to them and incentivises many to opt for private.

The admission exam

The admission exam of public universities complements the contents of HSC, not A levels. While the core concepts remain the same, the question pattern varies. For example, the admission exam for science subjects requires more formula derivation whereas A level syllabus focuses more on the application of the theories. Hence, English medium students find it more difficult to learn new content, that too in such a short period of time. 

Moreover, there are very few coaching centres dedicated to preparing English Medium students for the test. Since the syllabus is unfamiliar to them, they need more guidance to fill in their knowledge gaps and learn time-saving techniques. However, most coaching centres cater to the vast National Curriculum majority, leaving the others feeling a little lost. 

The environment

Rumours about the hostile and unsafe environments of public universities are often whispered, especially highlighting the rag culture. While some of them may be true, many are exaggerated. Nevertheless, it creates fear among parents and students alike. A fear that prevents them from even trying out for the said institutions and analysing by themselves if those stories are true. 

Despite the anxiety being understandable, it is also worth noting that the situation isn't as grave compared to 15 years ago. The fact is, every institution, even every department, has its own culture – some have a wonderfully wholesome environment whereas others do not. It would be a mistake to throw them all under the same umbrella.

While all the reasons are valid, I think English medium students would benefit by trying out for public universities. It could act as a backup if the going-abroad mission fails and, when given a proper chance, it could turn out to be a great experience. 

Noyolee is either sleeping or procrastinating or both. Reach out to her at [email protected]


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