Qualifying tests no longer open doors to upliftment

Qualifying tests no longer open doors to upliftment

The wealthy and powerful can bypass educational challenges by endowing chairs and schools at Ivy League universities, ensuring their children enjoy privileged access without competition for admission or scholarships.

The battle isn’t to the strong, nor the race to the swift’—these words from the Bible have suddenly acquired poignancy in the context of ‘paper leaks’ and cancellation of ‘competitive tests’ like NET-JRF and CSIR-NET after allegations of the process having been compromised. Heads have rolled, as usual leaving behind a stink that will take a long time to go away. The HRD minister has, for a change, accepted his moral responsibility, but it appears that damage control would be limited to pointing out to errors.

There is nothing like ‘human error’ traced to a scapegoat to distract agitated protestors. Unfortunately those at the helm at present and their predecessors have all been distracted by vainglorious projects like gleaming bullet trains flying on imaginary wings to beat aeroplanes to keep their feet firmly planted on earth.

The New Education Policy, 2020, creates a mirage of transforming India into a knowledge superpower in a blink—a real vishwa guru—while in real life universities are being systematically demolished and devalued by a UGC that has repeatedly shown itself to be the lapdog of the politician who patronise it. The chairmen aren’t squeamish about being used as cat’s paw to paint the syllabi in colours from pink to saffron at the drop of the proverbial hat.

The NCERT has registered a new low under the present director. Dinesh Prasad Saklani has no sense of shame when he justifies dropping chapters in secondary school textbooks on the ground that why teach young students about riots and acts of vandalism against places of worship? These can only create animosities between communities. The students can learn about these issues when they grow up.

Come on! A youth can vote at the age of 18 and in most cases the young are in secondary classes in late adolescence around 16-18 years of age. This is like drawing a very fine line, that can be easily fudged if need be, in juvenile justice system. What is going to change in a few months to endow them with maturity to grasp volatile topics? Is the posturing educator-administrator aware of the fiery lava of hate speech that is broadcast on all media that the innocents are exposed to day in and day out? In most cases, sectarian polarisation is engineered by political leaders at the highest echelons for electoral gain. When the students walk out of school they aren’t freed from the clutches of the clumsy NCERT.

Its text books frequently revised are the gold/coal mine from which the questions for MCQs in qualifying exams are dug out. Not only NEET/ FITJEE/NET are dependent, but aspirants of the no-longerheaven-born-services—the IAS etc—bet their lives on.

The rot set in long time back. First it was the copying epidemic including impersonation in these ‘qualify or die’ tests. Then came the coaching mafias that made a mockery of board examinations. What mattered is to crack the premedical or engineering qualifiers. Many kids pushed by their parents and peers perished mid course. The number of frustrated mentally crippled and depressed youngsters taking their own lives in IITs and medical colleges is increasing shockingly. Add to this the barbaric ragging, caste prejudice and communal baiting, and the toxic witches’ brew is boiling out of the cauldron to scald us all.

The credibility of all regulating institutions is totally lost. When leaders, who have not walked through portals of a university or college known for academic excellence and inculcating moral values, start pontificating about education and examinations from primary to doctoral research level, the dangerous slide to the precipice accelerates.

There is no comparison between real Gurudev who dedicated his life to injecting creativity and refreshing changes at Santiniketan and Visva-Bharati and imitators who can only flaunt similarities with the great man in attire and not possessing formal qualifications. What can no longer be swept under the carpet is the nexus between parties in power—not only the BJP—and businessmen patronised by them in education.

Private universities are mushrooming. Not long ago our government boasted of a unicorn in education business with a valuation of over USD 22 billion. Now the silence is deafening as the operation allegedly turned out to be a Ponzi scheme involved in nepotistic money laundering. From schools to universities, no level playing field exists.

The rich and the powerful don’t have any need for education. They can endow chairs and schools in Ivy League universities to let their progeny breathe the heady air on these hallowed campuses without facing any competition for admission and scholarship. They return with impressive degrees in engineering and management to employ the creme de la creme of survivors of the cutthroat competition at home. Those blessed by Goddess Lakshmi can turn a blind eye to Saraswati. It’s only the lower and middle-middle classes who still believe that the qualifying tests will open doors.

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The New Indian Express
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