Edunews

Testing time in Andhra Pradesh

in Hyderabad

IN Andhra Pradesh, in the wake of the Supreme Court judgment, students aspiring for admission to a professional course were initially on the horns of a dilemma: whether to appear for EAMCET or for MEMCET, the two different entrance tests to be held in April. The private managements argued that the Supreme Court had allowed unaided minority educational institutions to opt for an entrance test of their choice to make admissions. (There are 216 engineering colleges in Andhra Pradesh, of which 54 have minority status.)

But early in March, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) spoiled the party for the private managements when it directed that nationally it would recognise only entrance tests conducted by an agency constituted by the State government to select candidates for admission to engineering courses. Academics and also minority community activists who are opposed to the idea of a multitude of entrance tests being held, welcomed the AICTE directive.

Earlier, even as students cried foul over the plan of the private managements to administer their own entrance tests, many of the minority institutions themselves appeared to be a confused lot. The Planning Coordination and Monitoring Board for Minorities (PCMB), which has in its fold 12 engineering colleges and two pharmacy colleges, was, however, clear in its stand. It said that it would hold its own test under the name MEMCET (Minority Engineering Medical Common Entrance Test). The Shahdan group, which created the PCMB three years ago, was to hold the test on April 13 – ahead of the government’s EAMCET on April 26. (EAMCET stands for Engineering, Agricultural and Medical Common Entrance Test.)

However, the 54 minority-run colleges in the State were undecided. (Of the 54, 33 are run by Muslims, 19 by Christians and one each is run by Marathi and Sikh groups.) Most of them seemed to be watching the developments and keeping their options open.

Meanwhile, other questions loomed large. In the light of the Supreme Court verdict, can admissions to a minority institution, whether it is aided or unaided, be regulated by the State government or by the university to which it is affiliated? There seemed to be no clarity on this question, although the minority institutions maintained that the affiliating university had no power to regulate admissions.

The Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU), to which most of the professional colleges in Andhra Pradesh are affiliated, had made it clear early on that a pass in the qualifying examination and a suitable rank in EAMCET would be the only two acceptable criteria for admission to professional courses. This led to some protests. The JNTU’s notification was seen as being violative of the apex court’s orders. When the court had provided three options for admission, how could the JNTU ignore two of them, it was being asked. The latest AICTE directive has, however, vindicated the JNTU’s stand.

There was much confusion among the students. Many of them saw the planned April 13 entrance test as a ploy to legitimise “backdoor admissions”. While permitting the minority institutions to choose their own mode of admission, the Supreme Court had directed that the procedure must be “fair and transparent” and that the selection be made on the basis of merit. Going by the track record of most of the minority-run colleges in the State, their admission process has been anything but fair and transparent. They have in the past cocked a snook at rules and guidelines. This is why many people felt that giving the minority institutions the freedom to choose their own mode of admission would be detrimental to the interests of the student community. Even with government control and EAMCET rankings to follow, some of these institutions did not refrain from indulging in irregularities, it was pointed out. “And if they are allowed to hold their own test, can they be expected to be fair and straight?” asked Mohd. Fasiuddin, convener of the Andhra Pradesh Minorities Educational Rights Protection Committee.

Some self-financing professional colleges in Andhra Pradesh have of course been conducting their own entrance tests in recent years for various courses. But the experience has been far from satisfactory. Most of them allegedly did not declare the results. Apparently, some colleges did not even issue hall tickets for their tests. “I appeared for the examination on the basis of a registration receipt,” said M.A. Majeed, who took the tests in three colleges last year and is yet to get the results.

Overall, the Andhra Pradesh experience has been that it is sheer money power that drives the admissions process in the minority-run colleges. Irrespective of ranks and marks, those with money have been seen to walk away with the seats. In many cases admissions are allegedly made beforehand and the test itself is just a charade, it has been said.

With EAMCET, students know their performance status and can seek justice if their claim on the basis of their rank is overlooked. In the recent past there have been several instances where students have gone to court, approached the State Council of Higher Education or the Minorities Welfare Department and secured justice. It was not easy, but some students stood up for justice and got their due. It was clear that nothing like this would be possible if colleges held their own tests.

One plea in favour of colleges conducting their own entrance tests was that many Muslim candidates may not able to fare well in EAMCET, unable as they are to afford the required coaching. By conducting their own tests the private colleges would be giving an opportunity to such students to realise their dream, it was stated. For minority candidates who are very poor and who cannot afford EAMCET coaching, “MEMCET is the best option”, said Vizarat Rasool Khan, the man behind the PCMB.

PCMB vice-chairman Afzal Mohammad had claimed that EAMCET would be beneficial only to tutorial institutes that impart coaching for exorbitant fees. He did not agree that students taking MEMCET would be at a disadvantage in the job market. Prof. Afzal was the convener of the body conducting EAMCET, when he was Vice-Chancellor of the JNTU.

There was a move by the Federation of A.P. Minority Educational Institutions to seek an extension of the last date for applying for EAMCET in the case of minority community students. Federation general secretary Zafar Javed said that a large number of such students had not applied for EAMCET in view of the uncertainties that prevailed. The last date was March 15. At the same time, there was no change in the PCMB’s plan to conduct MEMCET.

Former State Education Minister Bashiruddin Babukhan has been opposed to the very idea of MEMCET and feels that the private colleges would damage the prospects of minority community students by holding their own tests. The future of students appearing for such tests would be bleak and they would be seen by employers as being “second grade”. Students should therefore think twice before securing admission in MEMCET procedure colleges, he said.

Some minority institutions were seeking the lowering of minimum qualifying marks in EAMCET, putting Muslim candidates on a par with Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe candidates. Under the present rules, Muslim candidates should obtain 60 marks to qualify in EAMCET. If the government accepts the proposal, virtually every minority community candidate who appears for EAMCET will become eligible for admission.

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