Archive for June, 2013

Cutoff marks – Do they cutoff the opportunities too?

June 29, 2013

Come June every year, it is ”admissions time” and one starts hearing “cutoff marks” used by different Institutions. It could be Delhi with so many constituent colleges or Bangalore with so many autonomous colleges, but the story is same. Students are frustrated with artificially high cutoffs like 99.999, if not 100%; parents are aghast with the insensitivity of Institutions; and, the general public gets a feeling ”it must all be a farce”. Why is it so only in India?


It is not unique to India, but nowhere else it is this acute. The reasons are varied though.


First and foremost, as a country we have not been successful in creating large enough number of high-quality Institutions in the past 65 years. The regulations in India punish the honest ones and reward the dishonest ones! Naturally, much larger numbers of students seek admission into far less number of seats. China has done an amazing job of creating a large number of first rate Institutions with large capacity in the past two decades, and, we should learn from them.


Second, is the lack of transparency. Most Institutions do not publish as a standard practice, the actual percentage of students who finally joined the college. What you get to see is the first set of announcements; since the same students apply to dozens of colleges, the actual position is known only after several weeks! No one bothers to share that information transparently. It is due to this reason that the applicant to student ration in IIT’s is higher than MIT or Stanford! It is worthwhile emulating USA that has SAT (after High School) and GRE (after Undergraduate degree) as Common Admission Test for admission to all colleges across the country.


Third, is the lack of coordination among Institutions; students in India have the option of studying anywhere, but they have to apply for every Institution or a group of Institutions) independently, often at great cost and effort. A small country like UK has an online system UCAS, that processes millions of applicants from around the globe, to thousands of courses spread across hundreds of Institutions. With its IT prowess, Indian companies are able to build such systems for overseas clients, but not for any clients in India! One hopes that in the near future systems like UCAS in UK that addresses the entire life cycle of the admission processes – information, guidance, counseling, actual application, tacking, final admission and publishing tons of useful reports for guiding students, parents, education administrators and policy planners.


Fourth, is the societal issue; parents not going through a rational process, but using all forms of pressures to get admission for their wards into Institutions, and admission decisions of even well-run Institutions not respected by the Civil Society. In the process, even courts are brought into the picture. Courts should interfere, if there is anything illegal about admissions, but in India courts sometime are forced to decide, even if a question is out of syllabus or whether an IIT has been very harsh with a set of students in their evaluation! Plus the artificial barriers created in the name of equity to rural / urban, poor /rich, advantaged / disadvantaged that creates more division than inclusion!Good institutes and their administration with excellent governance must be trusted by the Society at large; with less legal and social pressures colleges too will play a more natural and transparent game that will benefit everyone in the long run!


(Appeared in Times of India, June 29, 2013)