Exam Cut-Offs: The Great Indian Number Game

Posted on June 14, 2011 in Education

By Sushmitha Krishnamoorthy:

“Bahar circus hai!” — said Aamir Khan in the film 3 Idiots. This phrase is best justified during the college admission season in our country. The youngsters, who usually keep academics out of their conversations, are suddenly engrossed in talks of percentages, cut-offs and entrance exams. The most intriguing part is that every student has a unique, amusing story.

To begin with, there are those who have an ironical story. They studied their Physics, Chemistry and Maths with great pain for two years, only to pursue a career in economics or journalism. Why, oh why would they spend their time and energy into studying subjects that they do not want to pursue? Of course, “Science” is the “abracadabra” of academic prestige. Overlooking the prestige issue, it is still a great act of courage to choose journalism over engineering. Alas, one must be ready to answer the questions of many baffled acquaintances and patiently hear, yes hear — not listen, to their uncles’ generous advice. That leads me to the next story: The story of the obedient, tractable nephews and sons.

Mausaji asserts, “Zoology doesn’t have much scope. There’s no money there. You should go for medicine!” But Buaji said, “Medical? You have to study for 7 years! You will be too old by the time you will start working. You should go for engineering.” Even if the confused student soul decides on a career, the arguments and notorious free advice don’t stop. Goyal aunty suggests, “That College? My neighbour’s niece’s friend studies there. I don’t think it is very good.” Then a school friend says, “Dude, that college has a weird crowd! I don’t think you can fit in there.” And the poor student soul remains baffled.

The third story is one that we are well familiar with: of those who were “cut-off”. Students with anything short of a 90% score are spared much of the confusion. Because most of them have to settle for what comes their way. Yes, now that’s how our education system works. How you score in one exam will decide what you will do for the rest the life. Who cares about a student’s personality? Who cares about a person’s belief? For us, only numbers work. The consequence? Our country ends with many professionally dissatisfied, frustrated people.

Many of us now know the issue. It’s more of an amalgam of issues such as clichés, orthodox thinking, aversion to unconventional career choices and most all, the dominance of a few numbers as the deciding factor. A revolution will not happen overnight, neither over a week or a month, but more likely, over many years. Till then, what today’s generation can do is to broaden our mindset, open up to ideas, look beyond marks, pursue our passion and get the revolution underway!