A few days ago a friend tagged me on Facebook in a report discussing the government’s new move to make competitive exams easier. I could not precisely guess how the government was supposed to do so until I opened the link and went through the contents of the report. The purpose to do so, I thought, would be to reduce the stress faced by students ahead of appearing in these exams. Simply put, competitive exams are tough because they are competitive and the only way to make them any easier would be to reduce the competition. To reduce competition, one would need more seats or lesser number of applicants.
However, as it turned out, the move is supposed to bypass the role of the multi-billion dollar private coaching sector, and the way to do so somehow defies my logic. Apparently, competitive exams will become ‘easier’ when question papers have more questions from the school syllabus.
The argument at the heart of this decision is that students flock to coaching institutes at the school level because what they are taught in schools is significantly different from what they encounter in competitive exams. Now, what if this assumption is not true? I mean there is no proper survey or report to back it up. In my understanding, students choose to (or in some cases are forced to) join private coaching institutes not because ‘tough’ questions are asked in competitive exams, but merely because they are competitive.
I mean given that the number of seats is going to remain the same, and the number of applicants is most likely only going to increase in the coming years, competitive exams are not going to be any less competitive. If ‘easier’ questions are asked, they will be ‘easier’ for everyone, and the basic agenda of any private coaching institute is not just to prepare their students for these tests, but to prepare them to be better than the rest. Making questions ‘easier’ might help a non-competitive exam bypass the private coaching institutes, but I am not really sure how such logic can be used for competitive exams.
Students appearing in a competitive exam would score more under the supposedly new pattern, and then find out that they are still not able to make the cut because other students scored even higher. What do students do in this scenario? Try to prepare in an even better way. And it is this anxiety of being better than the rest for a competitive exam that private coaching institutes tap on.
It seems the only real motivation to take this step is to force shut the private coaching sector which remains largely unregulated. Even though such a step might bring respite to students from the economically underprivileged sections of the society who are not able to afford these institutes, the way it is being done is not really a solution in my view.
In a country where most of the government-run schools are in shambles when it comes to infrastructure and the quality of teaching, bringing school syllabus in line with the syllabus of the competitive exams is not really going to make a dent in the private coaching sector, even if one argues that private coaching institutes are up to no good for anyone. Moreover, the government really needs to set its priorities right: whether it wants to make exams easier, or education better? The latter, I think, would be appreciated by everyone.