Published: 10th July 2020
Online entrance exams will worsen already dismal representation of marginalised students: Ambedkarite student groups write to MHRD, UG
The lack of internet connectivity and electronic gadgets has long been an issue that students have brought up ever since the lockdown was announced
Over 30 Ambedkarite students groups have written to the MHRD, UGC and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment against online entrance exams. Stating that the current representation of the students from the marginalised section is already dismal, the groups said that conducting online entrance exams at this point would impede the entry of students from marginalised sections into education.
The groups, including JNU’s BAPSA, use data from the All India Survey for Higher Education in their letter. The data reveals that while the general category students comprise 23.6 percent of the population and comprise 56 percent in all universities - 65.5 percent in central universities and 66.5 percent in private universities. The SC category students comprise 16.2 percent of the population and make up 13.3 percent of the university population - 13.8 percent and 6.6 percent in central and private universities respectively. The ST students are 8.2 percent and their representation in universities is 4.9 percent - 4.1 in central universities and 3.1 in private universities. While OBCs comprise 52 percent of the population, only 27.7 percent are representation in Universities, the Muslim students make up 13.43 percent and constitute only 3.5 percent of the population.
“This data when compared to constitutionally mandated reservations as well as the population figures clearly shows the lack of adequate representation of SC, ST, OBC and minority communities at the enrollment level. For PWD students and women within each of these categories, the situation is much worse,” the students write.
“Despite widespread problems caused by COVID-19 and the economic impact of it, entrance exams and interviews are touted to be kept online. AIIMS, IIT Delhi, Azim Premji and ACJ have already held their exams or interviews online. More universities and educational institutions are expected to follow suit. But this will be exclusionary and discriminatory to people coming from socio-economically marginalised backgrounds especially from the rural areas given the already entrenched inequality and lack of internet accessibility,” they argued.
The students also pointed out that it is among these minority communities there are disproportionately higher dropout rates. “This is already doubly detrimental for the representation of these groups in higher education since the enrollment rates are significantly lesser and the dropout rates and the dropout rates are significantly higher. Therefore, any further exacerbation will result in SC, ST, OBC and other minorities becoming negligible in higher education,” they added.
The lack of internet connectivity and electronic gadgets has long been an issue that students have brought up ever since the lockdown was announced. The letter cites the NSSO Household Consumption Survey to substantiate their worries, “The Survey reveals 14.9% of rural households have internet compared to 42 percent of urban households. The proportion of households having computers is a mere 4.4 percent for rural households and 23.4 percent for urban households. Further, only 17.1 percent have the ability to use the internet in rural areas compared to 43.5 percent in urban areas. Similar findings have been revealed by IAMAI surveys.” They also brought up the survey conducted by the faculty at JNU and the University of Hyderabad that had found that the majority of their students did not have access to laptops or proper internet connectivity. “The UGC itself has taken cognisance of this issue because of which a committee has also been constituted,” they added.
Much before the lockdown, a problem that the student community has been fighting against is the concepts of viva and the entrance marks being solely dependent on it. Now, the students claim that several institutes are planning to change the entrance exam pattern and depend only on interviews to give them admissions. “This violates the Delhi High Court’s judgement which decided against 100 percent weightage to interview instead of adopting a 70:30 ratio for written exam and viva respectively,” the letter states.
“If entrance exams are allowed to be held online, it would automatically exclude a large number of students, especially from minority communities. This would amount to a colossal discrimination and injustice. These online exams are tantamount to an exclusionary and discriminatory policy of admission,” the students tell the government.
The student groups are demanding of the government and the UGC to discourage institutes from conducting online entrances at least till the pandemic situation abates, entrance exams must be postponed to October-November 2020 and if the situation doesn’t normalise then the semester should be postponed too.
Some of these student groups include BAPSA, CUG, Gujarat, ASA, Pondicherry University, ASA, TISS Mumbai, ASA, Mumbai University, DSU from UoH, ASA, UoH, Dalit Bahujan Students Association, Osmania University.