“Should we not have examinations that focus on equality and attracting merit as opposed to examination patterns that are heavily dependent on highly paid coaching classes,” Naveen Patnaik, CM-Odisha, raised this educational point, among others many important points concerning national politics and economic development, while addressing the sixth governing council meeting of the NITI Aayog on February 20, 2021. Going further, as reported, he stated ‘the prevailing examination pattern will eliminate merit in the long run and deny justice to lakhs of children who live in rural areas and lack physical and economic access to coaching classes.’ And later warning the top politicians including Prime Minister and Chief Ministers and national policy planners manning the central government run Think Tank, which replaced monolithic Planning Commission six years back, he advised and I quote, “NITI Aayog should look into this very serious issue or else in a few years, there will be serious distortions”.
When a politician heading government in a state for more than 20 consecutive years talks about ‘…….. serious distortions’, I may add that in present system of examinations/tests for admission into top national level engineering, management and medical institutions such as IITs, AIIMSs and IIMs, where best faculties, best infrastructure, etc. in Indian standard, and best academies available at a highly discounted costs, India’s large number of naturally talented students are not selected for admission in them. Majority of best talents aren’t picked up because, as CM Patnaik said and I concur, they are in rural areas having no access to coaching, which are mostly available in cities, and they can’t afford huge costs for such coaching.
Here, let’s discuss a practical example. Prior to going into the example, I say in confidence that this example isn’t an isolated case. In my neighborhood, there were two students; they were batch-mates and close friends, and more or less equally good in academics as both in 10th standard scored 9.8 CGPAs under CBSE. Both wanted to join IIT. One’s father was a Class-II employee in state government office; afforded coaching at distance Kota based +2 Science college cum coaching institution. Other one’s father was a private techno-management college faculty, and so can’t afford above said luck for his child. Latter joined state premier college for +2 Science, and it is an open secret how the academy is run in the government colleges with 128 students in a class and how much time is left for imparting study after taking attendance of 128 lots.
And let’s not discuss how many working days are practically there in strike, bandh, student union election, etc. infected academic environment in state run colleges. She pursued her +2 without coaching; cost was so prohibitive to her family’s income. While Kota coached got above 80% mark in +2 under CBSE and a seat in IIT in 2 + 1 years of +2 Science study cum IIT coaching, latter one cleared her +2 with just 58% mark under state board where allegedly marking is highly conservative. She accepted admission in a local engineering college soon after +2 unlike her friend. This kind of situation not only demoralizes natural talent but also contributes disturbing family and social harmony. Sadly, this social aspect is not noted by policy planners. Other unbearable aspect is: the teenagers use to talk among them that it isn’t the talent that is needed for getting a seat in elite IIT, AIIMS, IIM, etc. Money matters.
In fact, though too late, Odisha CM has raised a very important point. A rare tempting and intellectually thought! I don’t know whether PM-led NITI Aayog will give due importance to the thought of a CM immediately or defer the same for future consideration or completely ignore the same, but the issue raised deserves the immediate attention of the policy planners. And this will be possible if all the stakeholders join hands. But, I think, above all, nation’s civil society members have a major role in expediting Naveen initiative by way of building pressure on the government.
During the hullabaloo against Common Entrance Test for all engineering institutions/colleges throughout the length and breadth of the country irrespective of status and branding of institutions in early 2010s, I had raised this issue a la Naveen Patnaik raised without any success –frankly speaking nobody responded to my correspondences and no newspaper published the same as if they were of no use- before the so-called vanguard of worthy brand image of IITs, who were of the view that if newly proposed Common Entrance Test conducted and IIT seats be filled up from the merit list of the same abandoning decades old separate IIT specific entrance test, this would destroyed the elite tag of the institutions built over years of hard work of faculties and students apart from the government’s huge investment that MNC value while recruiting.
Agitation against CET under the leadership of Somnath Bharati, the then President of All India IIT Alumni Association and Advocate in Supreme Court, who is now one of the most controversial Aam Aadmi Party MLA in Delhi, has been partially successful as the government agreed to hold a separate test for IITs called “JEE Advance” after CET, later renamed “JEE Main”, held for students having higher percentile in latter and wants to join IIT in order to safeguard the alleged loss of elite brand image of IITs. I had following questions in my correspondences to anti-CET agitators: Q. 1. IITs are meant for producing best quality engineers for nations for nation building. But how many IITians including Somnath Bharati himself are in engineering profession now? And what is their contribution to Engineering profession?
Q. 2. Are MNCs, who literally outsource talents from underdeveloped countries causing brain-drain there, built IITs? If MNCs recruitments are the objectives, why the government has prioritized spending billions of rupees in elite institutions when there are schools without blackboards, chalks and all season’s roofs in county sides? Is it democratic justice to the citizens of the country? Q.3. Who is selected to IIT? Only those who can afford coaching fee in Kota IIT factories or similar factories mushroomed in cities inspired by Kota success. And requested the agitators to pay a visit to coaching institution and study how teenaged are forced to be IIT products, majority of them -comes what way- to satisfy their parents’ ambition as if a seat in IIT and AIIMS after +2 is the end of the road.
Let’s end this mad rush. Let’s revive spirit of school and college education systems of yesteryears when only non-meritorious students were detained in schools beyond normal hour and during play time for coaching so that they got passed rather than now-a-days’ all in coaching factories irrespective of merit standard thus producing machines bereft of human and social value and national spirit. It is really very eyesoring and unfortunate to see large number of cycles and two-wheeler in front of unhygienic coaching institutions in colonies, lanes and by-lanes many times blocking narrow streets and pathways -when the children supposed to be in play grounds or with their parents at home- than in the huge campus of Odisha’s premier BJB (Autonomous) College and its likes in other cities all over India.