Monday, April 12, 2010


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. 


Dr. Vishwanath Bite said...

Well siad sir, I have plenty of examples to prove the same. In June 2007, my one of the classmates qualified NET. He was asked "Which question you attempted in last section of 40 marks? and answer he gave was "I attempted question based on post-colonial theory" Questions asked in that exam were

Poetry as Social Practice
The City in Modern Literature
The Tradition of Fantasy in modern American fiction
Influence of Psychological theories on Contemporary Indian English Novel
Translator as Author

Another friend of mine from History department qualified NET. He was unable to answer the simplest question. Who is the chancellor of Shivaji University, even provided with the clue that Chancellor for all Maharashtra' Universities is the same person. he is Assistant Professor in University Department. My assistant in college is NET/SET/SLET affected he is not permanent even after 14 years teaching career. he is research guide and published almost dozen research articles.

Words said...

True. UGC must recognize the difference between Able and Eligible. Making NET mandatory will not maintain quality in higher education. Thanks for raising this issue. Keep writing. Kumar

Mukta said...

I had heard back in college that the NET exam was 'tough'...but this is just nuts! Swami V is probably turning into a thunderous rain cloud at this (since he can't turn in his grave). Completely agree Sachin, neat post.

Asma said...

Totally agree! I appeared for the Dec 2008 NET and it's not just in the general paper that we had such vague and pointless questions, but in paper 2 and 3 as well, like arranging a writer's works in a chronological order, etc. I'm taking the June exam, but I'm completely clueless as to what to read and where to begin! The only thing I'm sure about is to carry a good luck charm (just to test whether such things work or not :p)

amrit.whoami said...

things like these make an aspiring academician like me absolutely hopeless and disillusioned. no wonder the higher education of our country is in ruins. just see the plight in which our state universities are. education is meant to be evenly distributed. otherwise what is the use of having something as the UGC or NET.
after reading these depressing facts about the NET, i'm seriously looking for back up career options.
it is sad. there is nothing more to say :(

Raj said...

Cannot agree more. I took that 2008 exam and this is really a journey down nightmare lane for me, Sachin!

I am entirely clueless about the rationale behind the NET exams, specially the compulsory First paper.

Even when it comes to subject papers (Paper 2 n 3) the syllabus which appears in the UGC guidelines for ENGLISH is the 'shortest' : From Chaucer to contemporary Period!

Are we supposed to be Literary Databases in order to become lecturers??!

Moreover there are rumours that the selection procedure too is not very transparent. Managing to give a good exam(one needs Ladyluck!) is no guarantee for selection. There are 'regional' and 'zonal' calculations which determine your fate.

National ELIMINATION Test is worse than a farce.

som said...

UGC should not make it mandatory for m.phil and phd holders, they are already able and eligible for teaching in colleges. i think phd or m.phil should be the eligibilty for teaching in college/ univ instead of NET. Net exam should be banned.

Sonal Jadhav said...

Agree! I think PHD and MPHIL should be qualification criteria for teaching in college or university. One can not compare a student who has conducted disciplined research under M.Phil and PHD with a student who is evaluated through a one day exam (NET). Spending years in doing research under mphil and phd is not comparable to passing a one day exam as the types of question asked in NET mainly are not relevant to the subject one teaches to college students.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I am completely Agree with all you..
I think UGC NET is nothing but the way to grab Money from people like us...As every where there are exams...wherever you go...

They continue asking clueless and stupid questions in which many options seems to be right...

And every time we are appearing in this "UGC NET" Exam.

For UGC Guys :
First of all appear in your UGC NET and we will see How many of you become pass...