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Updated: June 6, 2013 18:38 IST

Is the NET failing our education system?

Vasudha Venugopal
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Pass rates for the national eligibility test are rising, but how good is the test in itself, ask professors

Hundreds of candidates, who took the National Eligibility Test (NET) in the city recently, are eagerly anticipating its results, which are due on Friday.

Over the last few years, the number of persons clearing the NET has increased, but the performance of Tamil Nadu has been dismal with less than four per cent of the candidates making it through the test.

The NET, conducted by the University Grants Commission (UGC) determines eligibility to the post of lecturer in colleges across the country. It is also taken into consideration in the awarding of junior research fellowships, and is meant to ensure minimum standards for the entrants into the teaching profession and in research. It is conducted in June and December every year, and is notoriously hard to clear.

Recently, there have been reports of the UGC withdrawing its decision to increase the cut-off marks to pass the NET, following a recent Supreme Court order. This has increased the hopes of many candidates who have been taking NET for several years now. Professors however say this decision will only dilute the quality of the test further.

Senthil Kumar, president, NET/ State-level Eligibility Test (SLET) association said “We are doubtful about these reports, as this is a vacation period for the Court. There is no report of such a ruling in the Supreme Court’s website,” he said.

The association is planning to file a petition in the apex court to challenging the existing pattern of the NET.

Recently, the UGC increased the eligibility score by 15 per cent without any notice to aspirants.

For the first time in June this year, NET was conducted in an objective mode in two sessions. The candidates learnt about the changes only when the UGC announced it after the results were announced in September.

The candidates blamed the UGC for coming out with a last-minute specification that an aggregate of 65 per cent in three papers was necessary to qualify, for general category candidates. The qualifying minimum was fixed at 60 and 55 per cent for OBC and SC/ST/visually challenged/physically challenged categories. The pattern also evoked strong opposition from college professors.

“It was no different from other competitive exams. It demonstrated the non-application of the mind of UGC, because for most of the subjects, the syllabus for paper 2 and paper 3 is the same. When UGC converted the test’s format from descriptive to objective, they did not even think about changing the syllabus, said S. Swaminathan, a senior professor.

It was now very clear that there was a deliberate effort to manipulate the test’s results and increase them, said N. Sailapathy, another professor.

“The UGC always claimed that it would evaluate the objective exam papers (paper 1 and paper 2) electronically, and only those who pass the cut-off in this evaluation, will have their subjective paper (paper 3) evaluated by experts. Paper 3 usually decides the overall rank. Recently, many attempts have been made to deliberately increase the passing criteria, which will only discourage meritorious aspirants. The NET/ SLET association has appealed to the UGC to follow the same guidelines as in the UGC CSIR examination, which follows negative marking system in order to avoid passing the exam by means of luck. But UGC does not take this into account when converting the examination from descriptive to objective,” Prof. Sailapathy said.

“However, the UGC has not listened to our appeal. What we are worried about is the number of attempts made to dilute the exam in every possible way. The pass statistics of the last few years clearly show this trend,” added Mr. Senthil Kumar.

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