Four top Catholic-run colleges in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka are to conduct online admission tests for new intakes for the 11th grade for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Notre Dame College, Holy Cross College, St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School and College and St. Gregory’s School and College, all run by the Holy Cross Congregation, will use written and oral exams to enroll new students for the 2020-21 academic year. The Secondary and Higher Education Board of Dhaka issued a notice on July 28 asking the four institutes to complete the admission process from Aug. 9-24 and to provide information of selected students. The move comes against the backdrop that all education institutes of Bangladesh have remained shut due to Covid-19 since March 17. Since 2012, all colleges except the four Catholic colleges have been following the government-mandated admission system that involves no written and oral tests. Selection of students is done through online enrolment based on marks obtained in the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) public examination after grade 10.
Catholic colleges, led by Notre Dame College, believed the marks-based admission system was unfair and discriminated against poor rural students. So, every year, these colleges filed a petition in the High Court and were allowed to select students via sit-in exams. This year the Education Ministry decided to issue permits voluntarily. Notre Dame College will hold virtual exams on Aug. 9. College principal Holy Cross Father Hemonto Pius Rozario said that Covid-19 and monsoon flooding in various districts have posed added challenges. “A virtual examination is a challenge for us, but we have no other way. We are already talking to experts to come out with an effective process for virtual exams,” Father Rozario told UCA News. "We did consider admission without exams, but we thought again because if we do this we are no different from others.” About 26,000 students apply for admission for the 9,000 places in the four colleges each year, said Jyoti F. Gomes, secretary of the Bangladesh Catholic Education Board. He expressed satisfaction that the government had decided to allow Catholic colleges to run admission tests without court intervention. Despite the pandemic and flooding, there is a plan to keep a quota for students from rural areas. "During the pandemic, we have been forced to choose this type of admission test. Even students who live in villages can manage it with a mobile device and internet. On the other hand, colleges will try to keep an option like a quota for rural students," Gomes told UCA News. Christians, mostly Catholics, make up less than half a percent of more than 160 million people in Muslim-majority Bangladesh. However, they are held in high esteem for their contributions in the fields of education, health and social services. According to the Catholic Directory 2019, the Church runs one university, 18 colleges, 43 secondary schools and about 278 primary and junior high schools across the country, educating mostly non-Christian students.
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