Admission controversies

Lahore, Sep 3: Entry tests for admission to Punjab's public sector colleges and universities are an annual topic of discussion around this time of the year. And almost every season of debate, since the introduction of these tests in 1997-1999, has involved the courts. This time round, the Lahore High Court has restrained the Punjab University from conducting an entry test for 18 students aspiring to obtain admission in the MSc programme in the botany and zoology departments. These students had passed their BSc Honours examination from the same departments and were being asked to take the entry tests for admission to the higher level. The court declared that this practice was discriminatory as some other departments falling under the same faculty of the university were allowing admissions to their internal students without the tests.

The case raises two important points. First, the absence of a uniform admission policy and, secondly, the lack of trust in the examination system. Even within Punjab University, each department devises its own admission criteria which, as the case above shows, sometimes vary for internal and external students. Not only that, out of 64 departments of the university, six require an entry test conducted by the National Testing Service while the rest hold their own tests. Given the variety of subjects being taught at the university, devising a uniform test for all of them may be difficult. But the same principle should govern the admission policy of all departments.Testing students' abilities and aptitudes before admissions is certainly required but this is what examinations are conducted for. If they don't allow colleges and universities to select the most suitable students, what are they there for? True, our examination system encourages rote learning and leaves a lot of room for the employment of foul means for getting through. Introducing entry tests rather than correcting the flaws in the examination system is like treating the symptoms and allowing the disease to continue wreaking havoc. Before a comprehensive reform of the education system is undertaken, such anomalies will remain open to challenge and will have to be addressed as best as the university can. Dawn

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