57% students have failed the BA Part 1 examination in Calcutta University. This is a sharp dip in pass percentage, particularly in the arts stream.
To be very honest, the news didn’t come as a shock. I did my Bachelor’s in Economics from Asutosh College under the University of Calcutta. I have seen a lot of my classmates struggling to pass the examinations at the end of each year. Many of them wouldn’t. The horror of making it through this university’s Bachelor’s programs has been the butt of jokes and memes that often go viral on social media. If anything is shocking, it is how the problem has been normalised over the years, so much so that when more than half of the students fail the annual exam of the university, it doesn’t move people as much as it should.
The question then arises, what exactly is so peculiar about this university? On one hand, the students of Jadavpur University and Presidency University excel in academia and land up in some of the best universities for their higher studies in India and abroad, the students of Calcutta University fail to achieve the minimum pass marks in their exams. Another question that arises is why the students of humanities particularly find it more difficult to perform well in the examinations compared to the science students?
The way I look at it, the problem goes back to this —
From what I know, in most Bengali families, especially the middle class and the lower middle class families, the kids are expected to take up the sciences after clearing Class 10. Taking up humanities is more of a compulsion than a choice. The general idea is, studying arts is for students who are not bright enough to study science. Here, I don’t think I need to deviate and discuss the craze with engineering and medical here since we already know about that.
Now, among those who take up humanities, the rush to get through to the three top-tier institutes – St. Xavier’s College, Presidency University, and Jadavpur University – begins after completing school. It is but obvious that the ‘brightest’ among the students, most of whom happen to come from the posh schools in the city (co-incidence?) win the race and make it to these institutes. I remember how I spent weeks feeling like a complete loser when I couldn’t make it to any of these colleges.
Thus, eventually, the ‘bright’ among the ‘not-so-bright’ students end up in the colleges under Calcutta University. Now, any sensible person would say that these students need the best of efforts and attention on the part of the teachers to do well in their academics. But for these students, academia is never hunky-dory.
Here’s a true story – I have attended college during my bachelor’s for less than 50 days in total in all the three years combined. But most of these visits would be for some official work like collecting the mark sheet or admit card, getting some document signed, etc. The classes, most of them, were extremely irregular and substandard. The classes were often cancelled without any prior notice; the syllabus wouldn’t be covered in most cases.
The students are then left with no choice but to avail private tuitions. Take my word for this – it is easier to spot a shooting star than to come across a Calcutta University student who doesn’t avail at least one private tutorial. It is important to mention here that the best of these private tuitions are often not affordable for students coming from poorer families.
Who is to be blamed when 57% of the students of this university do not pass an exam? Is it so much of a failure on part of the students as it is on the part of the institution?
To end this piece, I’d like to add one more thing. My attendance in college, if I had a record, would definitely be less than 10%. I happen to come from a relatively well-to-do family, so I could and did avail two private tuitions. I came seventh in B.Sc. Economics in my university.
Do you see how deep the rot is?