From nursery admissions to the postgraduate medical exams, the education sector is making news in India and all for wrong reasons. The latest is the cheating, using hi-tech, in the all India postgraduate medical entrance exam. According to reports, each student had paid between Rs 20 lakh and Rs 40 lakh for the ‘help.’
Question papers of nearly all the competitive exams get leaked. Last year, the question paper of AIEEE, taken by lakhs of students got leaked, leading to cancellation of exams and chaos all around. The year before a popular private coaching centre was caught with the question papers of a competitive exam, which it was selling for several thousands of rupees. The Railway Selection Board exam, the Insurance entrance exam, the list of question paper leaks is long. But surprisingly, nothing further is ever heard of about these cases. There is a little drama and noise for a couple of days and then, it is all forgotten or a cover-up is done. Then, there are the cases of impersonation. The children of influential citizens, even ministers, get paid exam writers. Several such cases surfaced a couple of years ago, exposing a well-entrenched net-work.
The nursery admission, especially in the cities has become a nightmare for parents. The government, the courts and the school authorities have all laid guidelines for admission, which essentially favour the rich and are biased against the poor. According to the existing norms, children of less educated parents would not get preference in any school, because extra points are given for mother’s educational qualification. Also, the system of points perpetuates a ‘class identity’ by giving additional points to children whose parents have studied in that school. The so-called reservation for the economically weaker section is given a go-by. This is happening after the celebrated Right to Education Act has been put in place.
The Delhi University has been changing the admission system too often. Its last year’s trial of form-less admission has resulted in colleges having students beyond capacity and allowed an unjustifiable, uneven playfield to CBSE students against other state board students. Most state boards in India, it may be pointed out, are not of the same standard as the CBSE. Admission under various criteria has resulted in students with 45 per cent marks in twelfth sitting along with those who got 90 plus, by sheer hard work. Only about fortythree seats out of a hundred are available for merit.
The story of engineering and other vocational colleges is another sorry chapter altogether.
The cumulative impact of all these issues is that the degrees from Indian universities and institutions will lose their credibility soon. We would not be able to take advantage of the head start Indian students and professionals have made internationally. While most professional courses have their own boards for conducting and evaluation, the Union Human Resource Ministry is the nodal ministry for education in India. Any correction to the existing anomalies and corruption has to come from there. But for that, the ministry should have a full-time hands-on minister. The HRD has not had such a person at the helm under the UPA both I and II. There is increasing pressure on India to allow foreign universities to set up centres here. This would further polarise the students into those who can afford world-class education at very high fee and those who cannot. It is high time to set the education scene in India in order.