The University Grants Commission, a statutory body of the Indian Government formed through an Act of Parliament in 1956 for “the coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of university education in India”, conducts the National Eligibility Test since 1989 “to determine eligibility for lectureship and for award of Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) for Indian nationals in order to ensure minimum standards for the entrants in the teaching profession and research.” The test remains mandatory for candidates dreaming of becoming permanent lecturers. The intentions behind holding such a test, like most of the bureaucratic intentions, were indeed noble. However, when it came to implementation, the NET test can be a nightmare for the aspirants.
The major problems of this test are regarding the quality, vagueness and even irrelevance of many questions that are asked. For instance, one has only to consider some of the questions asked in the December 2008 test for the paper one, which is “General Paper on Teaching and Research Aptitude”.
Here is the very first question of the paper:
1) According to Swami Vivekananda, teacher’s success depends on:
i) His renunciation of personal gain and service to others
ii) His professional training and creativity
iii) His concentration on his work and duties with a spirit of obedience to God
iv) His mastery on the subject and capacity in controlling the students
An objective type question, by definition, is the question which can have ONE AND ONLY ONE correct answer. As most of the new candidates and the old university teachers would not locate the exact source from which this question is taken, it can be readily be seen that there are more than one correct answer to this question. A person like me would not mind selecting all of the above option MINUS the phrases like “a spirit of obedience to God” and “capacity in controlling the students.’ Such an option is not given. One may wonder how two phrases like “His (sic) mastery (?) on the subject” and “capacity in controlling the students” are connected. The questions like this would leave even the Swamiji perplexed regarding his own views on the subject.
Now consider the second and grammatically incorrect question in the paper:
2) Which of the following teacher, will be liked most:
i) A teacher of high idealistic attitude
ii) A loving teacher
iii) A teacher who is disciplined
iv) A teacher who often amuses his students
The correct option would be the teacher who resembles or does not resemble the candidate’s daddy. The option, however, is not available. Whether a particular student likes the stand-up comedian in front or the person which “high idealistic attitude’ is purely a subjective issue. If the quality of questions meant for the future teachers in universities is this ridiculous, I am amazed how people manage to clear this test at all.
The vagueness, irrelevance and language abuse (Down with the language of colonizers!!!) is reflected in the syllabus of the paper one too. The syllabus says, “The test is aimed at assessing the teaching and general/research aptitudes as well as their awareness. They are expected to possess and exhibit cognitive abilities.” Awareness of what? If they don’t possess and exhibit cognitive abilities, will they be considered alive? General –slash- research aptitudes? What’s that?
There is a section in the paper on Information and Communication Technology. The question in the December 2008 paper from this section was as follows:
36) The accounting software ‘Tally’ was developed by:
a) HCL b) TCS c) Infosys d) Wipro
Now is the candidate who is appearing for lecturership in History or even worse, in English, will have any idea about the right answer? How many senior university teachers in the Humanities or Medicine or Arab Culture and Islamic Studies know the answer to this question?
Such kind of questions reveal the ignorance of fact that the people who take this test come from wide variety of disciplines and backgrounds and they hardly require the kind of knowledge that’s being tested in the paper. In short, the examiners and paper setters have absolutely no idea who they are testing and what they want to test.
Besides, what the test tests is, most of the time, alas, memory. If this is what is expected from the future teachers at university levels, I wonder what ‘minimum standards’ will the UGC NET ensure.
The test is compulsory also for the candidates who have done actual research at M.Phil and doctoral level. UGC, it implies, does not trust the ability of its own teachers who have supervised the research and the students it has registered. This sort of `doubting its own product’ would have an adverse impact on the image of the UGC. I feel that UGC does not realize this.
The effort was made to review this test under Prof Mungekar and it has a questionnaire which is available online. The instruction says that the questionnaire is to be filled up and sent to the authorities within thirty days of the date mentioned on the covering letter. The covering letter, however, is not available online, so the whole question of the date and thirty days is misleading.
The test is tyrannically imposed on the aspirants and it sees to it only the luckier ones manage to clear it and thus defeating the very purpose of such a test. If the test has to achieve its objectives, then, it is high time we RATIONALIZED it. The UGC should appoint the paper setters who not only know the language in which they are setting the papers but also know how to frame questions. The vagueness, linguistic incorrectness and irrelevance of much of the content of the paper results in the test being a sort of gamble as most of the large-scale tests are in our country. This sort of opacity would undoubtedly result in corruption at many levels. This test becomes a nightmare for most of the aspirants. It leaves many of the temporary university teachers at the mercy of the authorities, most of who would not mind exploiting them. The present form of the test would only end up the intelligent and capable candidates whose `objective type’ memory is not all that good out of the system and thus be detrimental to the system of Higher Education which is already in doldrums, thanks to the negligence of the politicians and decision makers in the country.