Wednesday, September 20, 2017

NEET problems - is just a repetition


Trouble is still brewing in the state of Tamil Nadu, this time due to NEET. This has now taken center stage over the longer running political turmoil. The NEET issue reminds me on the long standing ‘education-reformation’ problem going on the country. It started almost decades back, when I was still in school. Basically it has to do with truth that education is a fundamental right, but it is also a business. The government wants to teach everyone in the country for free, but it does not have the funds and power to do so.

The situation today is that only two groups of students can afford education – the extremely rich, or the extremely intelligent.

This leaves out a significant number of students out, mainly because the best education is always pricey. Even the gifted students need access to quality facilities and faculty to improve their scores. So that they too can move towards professional higher education, and better way of life after that.

In the professional education sector, there have two kinds of colleges for some time, the ones started and run by government, and the private institutions. Most of today’s reputed institutions were originally started by the government decades back, and have now earned a reputation of dispersing affordable , high quality education. The fees is heavily subsidized , students only need to worry about minor lodging fees. And students from the SC/ST reservation list received stipends. For this reason, such ‘government colleges’ have always attracted the most studios  or talented students. There are so few seats available, that only very few of the millions of students passing of high school are able to get into them. The rest have to settle for some kind of graduation, which may or may not fetch them a job. Or, if they can afford it, try and get into one of those thousands of ‘self financing’ colleges. But noting comes free at these colleges, the fees itself is extremely high.

The problem is compounded by the fact that although there is a central board of education in the country, most students study a course prescribed by the state they live in . This lead to establishing a central entrance test, where students from different education boards will have to attend and write a common test, and be graded solely on that result. The top government ‘free’ seats would go to the ones scoring the highest percentile, and the rest will just have to settle for one of the self-financed colleges.

As you can see, this whole system does not solve any problem at all. The problem is still present, but it has now moved from the high school marks to the entrance marks.  Only the smartest get in.

I was going through the initial phases of the government’s pathetic education reform during my college days. The government was largely deaf. And then, a student jumped to her death. This caused students to erupt in anger. Remember the Rajini suicide ?

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On July 22, 2004, Rajani jumped to death from the terrace of the building which houses the office of Commissioner of Entrance Examinations, Government of Kerala. In the weeks that followed her death, Kerala had been in flames. In cities and towns, enraged students have gone on the rampage, attacking ministers, setting ablaze scores of government vehicles and ransacking offices. Violent mobs also targeted the banks since the Indian Overseas Bank had allegedly refused Anand the educational loan. The incident had brought to the fore the deeper malaise in the state's education system, particularly the recent mushrooming of self-financing professional colleges, of which Rajani was a student. These colleges had rejected the Government's plea to allocate 50 per cent of the seats to merit category. The Opposition points out that the exorbitant fees charged at these institutions make professional education impossible for the economically backward sections of the society. Though the statewide protests are led by students' unions and youth wings affiliated to the Left Democratic Front (LDF), even pro-BJP organizations like the ABVP have been actively involved. The embarrassment for the Congress-led ruling United Democratic Front was complete when its Kerala Students' Union joined the agitation.

More than a decade later, I am still reading about student suicides. About high fees. About the debate between strict and liberal grades.

NEET won’t solve anything. It is another revision and repetition of the same problem.




PS:I was lucky enough to get one of the last remaining free government seats at a dilapidated aided college. I got by somehow. In the later years I have realized that nothing I learned in college ever proved useful to me in my career.