Going by the reports of scramble for admissions into colleges, India appears ill prepared for meeting the demands of the burgeoning youth population and the rising literacy rates. While on the one hand we trumpet about the youth power as a great human resource advantage for India, the prevailing education system seems designed to keep the best of minds out of good colleges, pushing them increasingly towards private education shops and scouting foreign universities.
Consider the facts. Seven lakh seventy thousand students appeared for the CBSE 12th exam in 2011. Out of these, 21,665 secured above 90 per cent marks. Some of the best students coming from schools in Delhi were unable to get into colleges and courses of their choice. Similar is the story we hear from all the metros. There are 41 boards in India (all the states have their boards and several other private systems also). By a guess, 13 million children cleared higher secondary exams this year. The standards of education vary in these boards with several state boards doing lenient valuation system.
Where do these students go for further studies? While reservations under various categories take away a large number of available seats, the basic problem lies with the thin supply of seats available in each college and university. Despite the steady increase in the number of youth seeking college education both in urban and semi-urban areas, the infrastructure has not been expanded to accommodate the rush.
This year, the Delhi University had 54,000 seats, in all its undergraduate courses in all colleges put together. This was 5,000 more than the seats available last year. While 14,580 seats were reserved for OBC category, 12,150 were reserved for SC/ST. Out of the remaining 27,270 seats, three per cent went to physically challenged, five per cent for foreign students, five per cent for sports and extra-curricular and five per cent for the children of defence personnel. This adds up to 18 per cent, i.e., 4,908 seats. In total this comes to 57 per cent (27 OBC, 12 SC/STS and 18 others). Hence, for all practical purposes, the seats available for general category in Delhi University are 22,361. The number of children who passed out of schools in Delhi in 12th this year was nearly two lakhs. According to reports, 10 per cent of admissions in DU are cornered by students from outside Delhi. For example, one-third of the seats in Sri Ram College of Commerce this year, where the cut off for B.Com (H) was 100 per cent, were bagged by students from Tamil Nadu Board.
But what aggravates the problem for the students is the absence of standardised education. Out of the 84 colleges in Delhi (including the professional colleges), a handful of colleges have been placed in the top-notch positions, while most of the others have been relegated to second and third category, for no apparent reason except a traditional bias. Hence there is a rush for admission into the 200-odd seats of the popular colleges.
The universities continue to offer courses that are in least demand. Though there are hardly any takers for pure sciences, the seats are still maintained. On the other hand, the demand for B Com and BA Economics has gone up tremendously in the past few years but the number of seats has not risen commensurately. With the result that students with 90 per cent plus are left opting for ‘lesser’ colleges or ‘pass’ courses.
This is one of the reasons that students even take the extreme, illegal way out with fake caste certificates. Students get tempted to cheat egged on by the parents.
As was revealed in the recent case of fake caste certificates in Delhi University admissions 2011, the kids caught were all high-scorers. The disappointment that they cannot get into colleges and courses of their choice while others with 15-20 per cent less marks breeze ahead in the queue thanks to reservations and minority quota—prompts them into such extreme deceit. While their action is unjustifiable the feelings are understandable. More heartburn comes from the so-called minority institutions, totally aided and funded by the government, which reserve 50 per cent of seats to their communities. The Delhi University has half a dozen minority colleges and a minority Central University.
The University Grants Commission has started talking of setting up 100 centres of excellence all over the country. While it may take another decade or more to come up, immediate solutions would have to be thought of. The least the Universities can do is to add 10-12 seats to each college, thereby increasing the availability in hundreds. This does not involve infrastructure make over, teacher recruitment or any additional expenditure except placing a few additional furniture in the class rooms.
The universities, especially those where there is a huge demand could think in terms of two shifts. This again requires no building and other facilities. Only the teachers and supporting staff need to be prepared for this. This is easier said than done, going by the resistance they put up to the introduction of the semester system.
The 100 per cent cut off set by a DU college has acted as a rude shock, making people sit up and think about our education system. Further shock came when the seats were grabbed within the first two days, leaving students and academicians gasping in disbelief. It is high time to devise a sensible strategy.
We need to reorient our education system, augment facilities and broad base the choices available to students. A countrywide standardization is essential. The Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal is not half as much interested in his Education portfolio as he is in politicking and trouble shooting for the UPA. And when he does act, it seems, is only to push the case of foreign universities’ entry into India.