SHUBHDA CHAUDHARY | 5 NOVEMBER, 2017
As thousands of young students, researchers, PhDs, teachers and others appear for UGC examination today, there are pressing questions that need to be asked and debated.
To start with, UGC Net examination had been introduced to determine the student is fit enough to be a lecturer and teach in central/state universities. For Indian nationals, it also provides Junior Research Fellowship for higher level research, primarily to fund their PhDs. But over the years, if discerned meticulously, this eligibility exam is in itself a pseudo examination, failing at every level of checking thought process, questioning, lectureship skills, ideation and value-addition for students primarily from Humanities and Social Science background. Standing today as a failure of our education system, this test is not value-oriented, rational and perhaps anti-intellectual pedigree.
Let’s start with how and why UGC Net has become mayhem in itself, lacking credibility. To start with, it does not promote the idea of inter-disciplinary research. In simple words, for example, if a student pursued Bachelors and Masters in a particular subject but later shifted to another subject for his/her M.Phil and PhD, its mandatory for them to appear in their Master’s subject for UGC Net. If in case, the student craves to pursue their PhD subject for lectureship, they need to crack two eligibility exams, even though the Master’s one would have more importance in their lectureship employment. Thus, the very idea of inter-disciplinary research in social sciences is perhaps not understood by UGC Net examination, a fallacy of our education system. In comparison, universities in Western countries, which give more importance to both qualitative and quantitative research methods are growing more and more sensitive and needful towards interdisciplinary research and creating new departments and positions for employment.
Secondly, the entire process of doing a PhD in social science in India is very strenuous exercise. The first few years, the scholar needs to learn the integral methods of data collection, sampling, empirical or value-based research as they understand various methodologies which are extremely essential for creating original, thought-provoking and competitive research. Sadly, these methodologies are never questioned in the MCQs of UGC Net. In fact, the entire preparation pattern of UGC Net as colloquially discussed by research scholars in various universities is very similar to that of preparing for General Studies of UPSC examination. Thus, UGC Net promotes rote-learning, mugging up data, superficial analysis and eventually becomes a test of ‘memorization’ rather than ‘learning’. To be quite frank, the mind of an academic is extremely different than that of a UPSC aspirant, a difference which our education system perhaps fail to understand.
Now, perhaps striking where it hurts more is the upcoming argument. Does Indian education system know the difference between the criticality, aptitude, reasoning and thought process of a researcher and that of a lecturer, especially when dealt in the realms of social science? Just the very idea of qualifying an examination of eligibility does not ensure for sure that the student actually understands the subject; leave the debate on being a lecturer or a researcher. The selection of faculty by Western countries for example is done through a very competitive system, which meticulously scrutinizes the ‘teaching statement’, ‘research statement’ and other original, thought-provoking arguments by the applicant along with his/her resume cover letter and other necessities. The liberating idea here is not test on the basis of an examination but on the basis of aptitude, experience and acumen. Instead of indulging in a test for eliminating, western countries focus more on creation of new teaching methodologies which can challenge, create and have a symbiotic relationship with the existing patterns, so that it can be rejuvenated time and again.
One of the prime reasons along with the lack of funding in social science research by the government, our academic body fails egregiously is due to the utter lack of originality. Even the Junior Research Fellowship amount, even after increasing is hardly enough to finance the field-trips of research scholars from central/state universities, especially those in International Relations/ Area Studies. Thus, eventually the research done in India is limited by itself, literally stinks of lack of exposure and above all, remains a ‘plagiarized’ product, penned down in other words. The research scholars of today are more anxious of cracking an eligibility test than thinking about new theories, analysis, inter-disciplinary research, policy impact or practical implications of their study. A marginalized population of researchers who have had western exposure are, on the contrary, highly rebellious of a superficial eligibility test like UGC Net, and hence are actively participating in brain drain. But for how long will we have great minds like Amartya Sen, Amitava Kumar, Vijay Prashad, Dibyesh Anand and other esteemed scholars growing, learning and creating new thought analogies in Western countries? Perhaps the answer is silence as our education system is quite abysmally stagnating, delving deeper into a morass, year after year.
Also the very fact that very few universities in India actually have well-thought, practical and distinguished Post Doctoral Fellowships also reveals the dearth of respecting original talent in the country. The idea of research or lectureship is not taken in India even till today as a devoted profession, instead it’s taken as a back-up, perhaps even a second choice, the plan B. There is very limited dissent against this entire system. To a certain degree, it feels like howling inside Plato’s Philosopher Cage in utter anguish, but yet unheard. The structures and supers-structures of our education system crushes down the birth of a free contemplative mind, which can question, interject and reject. Perhaps, eligibility exams like UGC Net have become so hollow, machine-based and primitive, that even qualifying in them can be discerned as a failure, the failure of one’s mind.
Nevertheless, it’s also easy to just criticize these eligibility tests than rather question every integral failure of our academic ideation. The scientific, theoretical, value/norm added data interpretation, organic knowledge creation and questioning technique is, all said and done, not justly dealt with UGC Net. Perhaps, year after year, our education system is more concerned in selecting repetitive, mugged-up and flaky knowledge than real, in-depth knowledge. In this massive step to create equality through eligibility tests, we are failing, quite painfully to create knowledge, originality and dissent. That in itself is not only a failure of education but detrimental setback of the very human legacy.