Although there was a huge negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education, the control over its third wave has led to the beginning of entry tests at the higher educational institutions in the country. We have already seen that the Medical and BDS entry tests have been completed, and the classes of the admitted students have started. The admission test has begun at the university level, with the Dhaka University entry test commencement on the 1st October 2021. This exam will end the anxiety of the students who have passed higher secondary examination a year ago.
There may be reasons for the criticism for delayed reopening of the educational institutions and the entry test in many cases. But we must remember that the safety of students and our children should be considered with utmost importance. A delayed entry test may squander one year in the life of a student. But if someone goes through this exam and dies due to corona infection, a family will be thrown into profound disarray on the one hand just as his/her existence is over. If we judge the situation in light of this reality, we will see that the government and the university authorities have made the right decision at the right time. They have decided to take the entry test at the right time showing enough empathy towards the students.
The entry tests of Dhaka University are being held in the divisional cities, followed by the Rajshahi, Chittagong, Jahangirnagar, and other universities to be commenced soon. There have been a lot of criticisms over the last few years about the process of entry tests because it requires students to move all over the country. And the date and schedule of the entry tests are determined in such a manner that different university tests are held almost at the same time. As a result, the plight of students and their parents are inexplicable. We have seen His Excellency the Honourable President and the Hon'ble Prime Minister speak on this issue at various times. They have instructed the authority to take entry tests of similar universities in a cluster system. On the one hand, it will reduce the waste of time, just as the suffering and misery of the students will be greatly reduced.
In the case of students, it is not just a problem of travel or accommodation. Submitting entry test fees separately at each University is a difficult task for many students. We know that Bangladesh is an agricultural country. Eighty per cent of the people in this country live in rural areas, and it is very difficult for them to raise money to fill up university entry test forms. With this reality in mind, it will be possible to reduce the suffering of students and parents if the entry test is held in a cluster system. We already know that considering the Corona situation and the movement problems of the students, the Dhaka University authorities have decided to take their entry test in the universities of different divisional cities, which is a laudable decision. I want to thank the administration for taking such a student-friendly decision during the pandemic. This will greatly reduce the chances of the spreading of COVID-19 infection during the entry tests.
There is no denying that conducting entry tests in different divisional cities is difficult as privacy issues are very closely involved with this test. Any careless decision can make the admission test questionable. Even then, they deserve to be applauded for their decision. In addition to Dhaka University, the entry test of all other universities to be held in the cluster system has also been provided with the opportunity for the students to take the test at the nearest University. That is also a student-friendly decision. I applaud the authorities for taking such a decision. However, due to some limitations of the few old universities, they may have decided to take their entry test at their campus.
If I am talking about Rajshahi University, the authority tries its best to ensure that the entry test is conducted following the safety rules. We already know that there was a demand from various organisations to open the halls. This is because the students could have stayed in the halls with their relatives or known students during the test, which may have reduced much of their sufferings. The students may indeed have some problems due to the closure of halls, but if the situation worsens after the halls’ opening, many people would have criticised the decision.
However, the City Mayor's initiative to hold discussion with the owners of different messes surrounding the University Campus and the City in the presence of the Vice-Chancellor of the University and other higher officials requires to be applauded. As part of the decisions of the meeting, students coming to sit for entry test in Rajshahi may stay in different masses showing proper documentation, which is a commendable initiative of our city Mayor. Besides, I would like to thank the Rajshahi University authority for arranging places in six female halls for the female students to stay during the examinations.
We all need to keep in mind that if a student or a parent gets infected, it does not mean that the infection will be confined to that family only. The infection can spread from one family to another and in society. Therefore, our civic responsibility is to ensure that we adhere properly to the WHO and the Government of Bangladesh's health department's safety protocols to keep the country safe.
In conclusion, I would like to say that His Excellency the Honourable President has long ago instructed the university authorities to conduct entry tests in a cluster system considering the plight of the students and their guardians. There have been extensive discussions over the last two to three years on this issue. As a result, we need to keep in mind that the entry test in the cluster system is now a need of time. If we think about the plight of students and their parents during exams, there is no other option but to take tests in this way. If we compare our children with others, we will see how much misery and suffering admission seekers and parents endure during tests.
I want to appeal to all the university authorities to develop a universally accepted mechanism of entry test that will be corruption free and easy. In some cases, we often try to say that the 1973 ordinance does not bind the universities to abide by the government's instruction. But the time has come to rethink everything. It will not threaten our autonomy if we decide to take the entry test in the cluster system to reduce students' anguish. Rather, we commit many more crimes when we abuse autonomy for our benefit. Therefore, if it is possible to organise the entry test in a cluster system with the dedicated efforts of all actors, the test seekers will be benefited.
The author is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration, Rajshahi University