Thursday, June 11, 2009


Seats decreases as the academic level increases!

The recent exposure of selling of medical seats in Chennai for a jaw-dropping sum of Rs 12 lakhs to Rs 40 lakhs should not come as a surprise to anyone. This is something which has been created by our policy makers and have been prevalent in our education system for long. This amount sometimes touches a figure that is thousands times (literally) the actual fees of an institute.

These kind of obscene donations are exchanged not just on account of high cut-off marks but the severe shortage of seats available. As one moves up in the academic ladder, the chance of getting into the new level of education decreases. In simple words, every year around 10 million (according to the last report by Ministry of HRD, 2005-06) students clear their higher secondary exams, and are ready for college. But then here lies the peril! There are only 20,769 colleges in all, and just 490 universities for 10 million ready-for-college candidates. Among these 20,000 colleges, only a handful are worth to be called colleges, for the majority merely exist. And mind you, here we are referring to just general education. The situation gets worse when it comes to professional education. In a country where for parents there are no career options for their children other than engineering and medicine, the agony is even more. The number of good medical and engineering college is so less that only 32,000 doctors and 5,00,000 engineers can graduate every year, making it a haunting ground for rampant donations! Moreover, collectively (as per data available for 2003) where around two million students manage to graduate from colleges, there is next round of agony awaiting them and that is only 5,41,000 seats are available at the Postgraduate level. Which means only one-fourth of all graduates make it to Postgraduate level!! On account of such skewed ratios of seats, the presence of the back door admission system becomes a compulsive imperative for Indian parents. Going by simple demand-supply economic theory, as the number of seats decreases, the price of same increases. Which means that if one has to part with tens of lakhs for getting into graduation college, the same person may have to again part with few more tens of lakhs at masters level. The donations (or the brokerage) amount is sometimes so high that students opt to migrate abroad for doing similar course at the same or sometimes at a lesser price.

The whole problem condenses to the basic fact that with number of seats decreasing at various academic levels, students (even meritorious ones) are left with no option but to buy seats through brokers. And the worst thing is that these are basically unfilled seats allotted under different quotas (state, sports, reservation, special category). The only solution to this is to increase the seats but for that institutes require huge investments in order to refurbish the infrastructure. And here comes the second handicap. Most of the time, neither the government is proactively making funds available nor is allowing the colleges to be on their own to fund.

This problem can be solved only by increasing the seats at all levels of education. And this can be done either by government funding or through private initiatives or by deregulating education. Policy makers should not forget that access to quality education is a fundamental right and there should not be any bottleneck towards it. Such obscene donations systems are created only on account of illogical short supply, which should be arrested under cost. It is a shame that one has to pay donation to buy one’s own fundamental right in their own country!!


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