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Why UGC NET for English Literature is absurd? My Take

Well, in the circles which I am known and the intellectuals who know me they know very well that how much unsatisfied I am with the current education policies in the country (India of course). If one scrutinises and tries to reach a final conclusion, believe me, only amusement or entire bizarre might be the end result! It is reaching nowhere; it is moving towards no destination; it’s just rolling and perhaps rolling at the same spot and coming back as you must be seeing every morning when you start running on your treadmill. You feel like you have run too much and covered a fair distance but you are, in fact, standing in the same gym or your room where the treadmill rests! Our education system is just like that! And today, with a heart so heavy and mind so boggled, I am writing my opinion about the UGC NET Examination, conducted by CBSE these days; and also, my focus will remain on the matter I know well – UGC NET’s validity in the terms of testing an English literature student whether he should be allowed to teach or not (she too, of course). Let’s get it rolling then!

why UGC NET for English literature is absurd!

Let me start with the very first fact that as many professors of English literature I know, they cannot clear the current pattern of UGC NET exam for English literature! So, should they be disqualified from teaching job? Of course not! Because I know how well-versed they are in teaching and their broad-chested knowledge in the field of various expertise in English literature is just so amazing that (I can vouch) they can explain almost everything! However, sometimes (and that sometimes might be often for some of them), they do have to consult the books to know whether a particular line begins a particular chapter of a particular novel by a particular writer or not! They are certainly not agnostics and I can assure the people sitting on the top that in English literature, there will seldom be an agnostic! Even if Shakespeare himself attempts a paper curated on his very works today, he will fail! He would seldom remember in which act of his play a certain phrase has been used by a certain clown. The text is important but not more than the interpretation of the text and that can be done only when the text is consulted and not by remembering the entire novel or entire play or even the oeuvre of a certain literary figure.

Objective Question Pattern: Just suppose a day comes and which might be the good day of a person who hardly knows who the hell Auden was; the person attempts the objective papers of the UGC NET English Literature exam and he somehow manages to qualify and becomes eligible to become a professor and as he has passed the exam by cheating (in some of the cases), he gets a job by the same method. HE IS A PROFESSOR of literature for you now! What will he teach? He became a professor just by filling some odd dots with the black ink and voila! Just imagine the worst case scenarios and you will be amused on the pattern which has been decided by UGC after rejecting the much-needed long and short answer pattern which could, to an extent, judge the true understanding of a person who wished to become eligible to teach in a college or a university. While writing an answer, a person has to employ ideas, develop arguments and justify his stand on a topic of fact or a topic of logic. On the other hand, if I don’t know who the hell was the poet who bought a house which was sometimes in the history rented by John Webster, I will not be able to teach to the students the topics I have mastered during my postgraduation! This is either sheer bankruptcy of the intellectual quotient of the people who are there in the UGC or a deliberate attempt by our leaders of a certain subversion of the higher education in India – and let me say it bold and loud. The objective format is very apt for the first paper which is based on teaching skills and general knowledge and some reasoning. However, YOU CAN NEVER JUDGE A PERSON’S COMMAND OVER WORDSWORTHIAN POETRY BASED ON THE FACT WHETHER HE IS ABLE TO TELL YOU A CERTAIN PHRASE APPEARS IN THE PRELUDE OR NOT! That’s a gross injustice to the merit of the deserving people who must be in our higher education system to enrich the output.

Where is the interview?
Before distributing the money to poor people who have been affected by a flood, the authority is all up with arms and ready to match the exact names, details, spellings, age, face and aadhaar too. The final output, after cutting the certain commission of the officers, is something about 3 to 4 thousand. However, before deciding that whether a candidate is even worthy of being rewarded the Junior Research Fellowship, just by their “performance” at colouring the “objective” dots with black ink, they are offered around 30 to 40 thousand a month for their “research work” and god knows what they would do with that money! Don’t they have a few hours to spare? Cannot they organise an interview session or a group discussion to see whether these guys being rewarded the money are even worthy of preparing the future civil services officers or not? Afterall, a professor can create thousands of IAS and IPS officers! I don’t get it!

And who is the mastermind behind the ABSURD questions?
Just have a look:

“Thomas Babington Macaulay, the writer of the infamous Minute of 1835, finds a mention in Salman Rushdie’s: a b c d.”

“What a mockery this
Of history, the past and that to come!
Now do I feel how all men are deceived,
Reading of nations and their works, in faith,
Faith given to vanity and emptiness;”

the above extract is from which book of The Prelude.

“In More’s Utopia, the fictional traveller Raphael Hythloday’s second name in Greek means: a b c d.”

“The term “womanism” was first used by: a b c d.”

and so on…. who wrote this…. when did it publish…. in which chapter this occurs….

are you guys kidding? How will you judge someone’s competence in Virginia Woolf’s teaching if he or she fails to recall which book of history did she refer to in a particular novel by her? Remembering the publication dates makes someone an expert in Shakespeare’s drama? And if this is the level of their competence testing, I challenge those who are behind selecting and finalising the question papers – dear sirs, I will ask you only 10 questions from English Literature (unlike you people who fuse English with almost everything). If you guys are able to answer even a single one of those questions, I will quit writing whatever I write!

And friends, if this is the way things are going to move, I am just hopeless about the future of the coming generation when they reach universities. A serious worry awaits us and we can do just nothing because we are too busy fighting for reservations and making it further fun when someone with 51.23% correct ‘circle painting’ reaches a college as a professor of English literature – after all, he is UGC NET qualified!

Hope you had your share of amusement and shock together.

Alok Mishra

First and foremost a poet, Alok Mishra is an author next. Apart from these credentials, he is founder & Editor-in-Chief of Ashvamegh, an international literary magazine and also the founder of BookBoys PR, a company which helps writers brand themselves and promote their books. On this blog, Alok mostly writes about literary topics which are helpful for literature students and their teachers. He also shares his poems; personal thoughts and book reviews.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. hello Alok ji
    Currently I am in M. A 2nd year, yet to appear my exams next year and along with this I am also interested in lectureship post for which I am preparing for UGC NET
    , now here goes my main concern which is I am 32 years old and married due to some personal reasons my studies got delayed but do u think I can successfully pass for this lectureship post by passing net??? And if yes, kindly do suggest me some of the best books for my reading and as well as reference
    Your suggestion will greatly help me out.
    Thankyou for your time!!! Have a great day!

    1. Hi Sriya,
      please continue what you are doing and I am sure you will succeed. Once you qualify NET, you can easily join as a literature lecturer in some private colleges or universities. However, to get a post in the government colleges, you will have to complete PhD.

  2. very true Sir, I agree with u. It is really hard nut to crack Ugc Net in English literature Subject. The books those mentioned by you is enough for this exam preparation

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