Alleviating the plight of admission seekers

Published : 02 Jun 2023 08:05 PM

Thousands of bright and ambitious students across Bangladesh embark on a challenging journey towards higher education every year. With limited seats available at renowned universities, students are required to excel in highly competitive entry tests. However, the journey is often riddled with obstacles, placing immense pressure on students and their families. This article delves into the plight of students appearing at entry tests in Bangladesh, exploring their challenges and potential impact on their future prospects.

With its large population, Bangladesh faces a significant disparity between the number of university seats available and the growing number of students aspiring for higher education. Renowned universities often have limited seats, making the competition fierce and intense. The pressure to secure a place in these institutions is immense, resulting in students' heightened anxiety and stress levels. Many students spend years preparing for these tests, often attending coaching centers or hiring private tutors, exacerbating the pressure on their shoulders.

One of the major issues plaguing entry tests in Bangladesh is the stark socioeconomic disparities among students. Many students from underprivileged backgrounds face financial constraints that hinder their ability to access quality education and proper resources for test preparation. The high costs associated with coaching centers, study materials, and additional support often place these students at a disadvantage. Consequently, talented students lacking financial resources have limited opportunities to pursue higher education.

The grueling preparation phase and intense competition take a toll on students' mental health. The fear of failure, societal expectations, and constant pressure can lead to anxiety, depression, and burnout. Despite the increasing recognition of mental health issues, there is a lack of institutional support and awareness surrounding the mental well-being of students appearing for entry tests. This neglect further compounds the challenges these young individuals face, impacting their overall academic performance and future prospects.

As students across Bangladesh aspire to pursue higher education, their guardians often embark on an arduous journey alongside their children. Taking their kids from one university to another in search of suitable education opportunities poses numerous challenges and hardships.

Bangladesh has diverse geographic locations, and renowned universities are often scattered across different regions. This geographic dispersion poses a significant challenge for guardians, who must undertake long journeys to accompany their children during admission. Traveling long distances, sometimes to remote areas, can be physically exhausting and financially burdensome for these guardians.

We have to ensure that the pursuit of higher

 education is accompanied by a 

supportive and nurturing environment 

where the dreams and 

aspirations of every 

student can thrive

Escorting their children from one university to another entails considerable financial implications for guardians. They are also required to bear the costs of transportation, accommodation, and daily expenses during their travels. These financial burdens can be overwhelming for many guardians, especially those from low-income backgrounds. It forces them to make sacrifices, sometimes compromising their well-being and financial stability, to ensure their children have access to quality education.

Guardians often face the challenge of balancing their work commitments with escorting their children from one university to another. The admission process, including entrance exams, interviews, and document verification, can be time-consuming and require multiple visits to universities. This poses a dilemma for guardians who may find it difficult to obtain leave from work or risk jeopardizing their employment by taking prolonged absences. The strain of managing their professional commitments alongside the needs of their children can take a toll on their mental and emotional well-being.

The journey of guardians from one university to another is not just physically and financially demanding but also places a significant emotional burden on them. Witnessing their children navigate through the challenges of university admissions and facing the uncertainty of securing a place can be stressful. Guardians often provide their children with emotional support, encouragement, and guidance during this critical phase. However, their anxieties and concerns can be overwhelming, affecting their mental well-being.

The journey of students appearing at entry tests in Bangladesh is laden with challenges, ranging from limited seats and mounting pressure to socioeconomic disparities and mental health issues. Policymakers, educational institutions, and society as a whole need to acknowledge these challenges and take proactive measures to alleviate the plight of these students. Reforms in the education system, including increasing the number of university seats and diversifying the selection criteria, are crucial steps towards providing equal opportunities for all aspiring students. Additionally, addressing the socioeconomic disparities through financial aid programs and inclusive policies can ensure that talented individuals from all backgrounds have a fair chance at higher education.

As I write this piece, the entry test at the University of Rajshahi has just concluded. As a faculty member of this esteemed institution, I have had a first-hand experience of witnessing the challenges faced by test seekers and their guardians. It is disheartening to see that around 200,000 individuals flock to Rajshahi, often staying for 3 to 4 days, with most having no relatives in the area. Consequently, they face difficulty finding suitable accommodation, adequate food, and basic toilet facilities. 

The University authorities have earnestly tried to provide services to the test seekers. However, the sheer volume of students has rendered these efforts insufficient. Despite their best intentions, the university lacks the resources to cater to the overwhelming number of students and guardians in need. It is a logistical challenge of significant proportions.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education has reasserted its commitment to conducting entry tests through a centralised testing authority, aiming to alleviate the burdens faced by students who must move to different universities to appear for these tests. A comprehensive policy must be devised promptly to safeguard the future of our younger generation. We have been informed that the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh has been entrusted with coordinating all the necessary details for establishing this central testing authority. However, it is crucial to consider that if we genuinely desire the central body to administer next year's entry tests, they must commence their work at least a year in advance. Failing to do so would render it impossible for them to organize the tests effectively, replicating the same predicament next year. 

Furthermore, in this era of social media, critics have taken to online platforms to mock the entry test process at the University of Rajshahi. While I am not particularly concerned about their trolling, the students' and guardians' genuine plight profoundly affects me every year. These individuals are caught during a highly competitive and emotionally charged process, seeking to secure a bright future for themselves or their children.

Their hardships are deeply distressing, from the financial strain of traveling and staying in Rajshahi to the overwhelming difficulties in finding suitable accommodation and necessities. As an educator, I firmly believe every student deserves a fair chance to pursue higher education without being subjected to such challenges and obstacles.

Ultimately, the University authorities, the government, the UGC and the broader society must come together and find sustainable solutions. The plight of the students and their guardians should not be brushed aside or overshadowed by online trolls. We have to ensure that the pursuit of higher education is accompanied by a supportive and nurturing environment where the dreams and aspirations of every student can thrive.

Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi