Sunday, December 24, 2006

Submission on admissions

Macro solution for a micro problem

The other day, when I entered office, early in the morning, I found Joydeep, our Senior Editor (Bengali Edition - TSI), terribly nervous and deeply engrossed in a pile of papers. From the distance, that stack somewhat looked like a bunch of testimonials. I got worried, because in an office environment whenever someone is carrying mark sheets and degree certificates and that too sitting on it early in the morning – it means bad news for the organisation! With a lot of apprehension, I enquired. Pat came the response – “Sir, Daughter’s admission!” I heaved a sigh as for the rest, I knew. Well, these days, there is one name that is keeping the ‘prospects’ of both the Indian cricket team and that of nouveu parents on tenterhooks – ‘Ganguly’. We already know a lot about the ‘cricketing Ganguly’, so this time let’s talk about the latter – Ashok Ganguly, the Chairman of CBSE, under whom a committee was constituted to oversee the Nursery Admissions. It was created in order to safeguard the parents and their little ones from the traumatic interview process, which they had to go through. Noble thought indeed! To address the problem, the Committee has come up with a 7 point admission criteria – preference to a girl child, the distance between the residence and school (3 kms being the most appropriate), if the other sibling/s are also studying in the same school, if either or both the parents are an alumni of the school, educational background of parents, a stable professional background (Government employees are the only contenders here!), and finally, if the child is one requiring special needs. Ironically, the ruling failed to address the moot problem and succeeded to leave both schools and parents equally perplexed.

In fact, the madness behind the admission to ‘that coveted school’ has always been an extension to the escalating pressure that parents in the ‘Great Indian Middle Class’ face in provisioning a stepping stone to their child’s career. So that the child, once grown up, helps them break away from the sticky middle class loop. Very illogically though, career options for any Indian mind-set are still limited to either engineering or medicine (because for them sportsmen and film stars fall from heaven; journalists or writers cannot make both ends meet; and sales executives or teachers are basically failures). So, a good school for them is only that one, which churns out the maximum number of students to the country’s best engineering and medical colleges. And here lies the villain of peace. Regrettably, the numbers of such institutions are so pathetically limited that only a handful of children make it through; and for most others – some of them brilliant students – even splendid efforts by teachers, parents etc fail, and to their parents’ discontent, they all end up being members of the forbidden Middle Class. And really, the solution is simply. Address the supply side constraints, give more freedom to private entrepreneurs setting up schools, and create/enable an environment for more world class, multi-disciplinary educational institutions, ASAP! Isn’t that what we always wanted? With 385 million illiterate citizens, it doesn’t seem our politicians ever wanted that!


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