There is a certain elite college in Delhi which specializes in teaching commerce (much abused among the engineering fraternity – please refer to 3 Idiots), and this year they have announced that their required ‘cut-off’ score for admission is (hold your breath, all those who are both still sane and haven’t been reading the papers) 100%!
Even the Union Minister in charge of education, Kapil Sibal, who is not exactly feted for being a highly rational person, has publicly said that the decision is ‘completely irrational’ (The Telegraph, June 16, first page). An old boy of mine who saw the principal of the said college on a TV show said the man tried to defend the decision by claiming that it applied only to non-commerce stream applicants (it so happens that one science student has scored an aggregate of 100% marks in this year’s CBSE plus-two level examinations); for commerce students, the cut-off is ‘only’ 97%. This decision has been taken, according to the said principal, because they have a policy of taking in only the ‘very best’.
Here are a few things I would like to say as a lifelong teacher who also happened to be a better than average student in his time:
1. Do the ‘very best’ habitually go for higher academics (recall gentlemen called Tagore and Sachin Tendulkar and Vishwanathan Anand and Dhirubhai Ambani) at all?
2. Of those who do, since when did the ‘very best’ start going for commerce studies?
3. As for colleges indulging in this farce of setting 94% or 97% as their cut-off requirement, when will it cease? Isn’t it an open secret that most of those who score such marks these days are only slightly better than duds (most secondary- and higher secondary level toppers, briefly but ecstatically celebrated in the media, are never thereafter heard of again, as I have personally checked for nearly three decades: at most they become faceless managers in banks or power plants, working 12-hour days for a pittance)? I can also personally vouch that of all the scores of my own pupils who have got 90%-plus marks in ICSE English this year, hardly a handful ever scored more than 70% in the tests I gave them in class, even objective-type tests when I called out the answers and they marked themselves! Since the boards grossly inflate their abilities (and egos), why not prick the balloon by telling the colleges to select them strictly on the basis of their scores in standardized entrance tests, the way the engineering and medical colleges (and some top-of-the-line liberal arts colleges, like St. Stephen’s in Delhi and Presidency in Kolkata) do?
4. And what about the school and plus-two boards deciding to give marks more sensibly, so that one has to be really, really good (as it was in my day) to score an aggregate higher than 80%, and 90% meant sure-shot Nobel Prize material? Would such a decision hurt anybody but idle semi-literate middle class mothers whose whole existence pivots around boasting about their children’s examination prowess before other equally stupid females?