The last few days have seen Delhi University colleges reach new heights for cut off marks. SRCC announced a stratospheric 100% cut off with St. Stephens, in a close second for absurdity, with 97%.
Things have changed since my days in Sri Venkateswara College, or Venky for the English medium types. Even then getting admission was not simply a matter of turning up and bribing your way into the sports quota. (Many Venkyites were track and field champions who didn’t have the stamina to run after the Mudrika(ring Road bus) for more than the length of a bus stop.)
Many readers will be very upset that I gained admission by quota. Not as a scheduled tribe person or a backward caste member, despite those groups being a more apt description of my character, but as a bloody gora. This was something I didn’t advertise, as my very first day in College was a full blown riot in the dark days of the Mandal Commission, that saw volatile nationwide protests against quotas for education and jobs.
I spent that first day with my eyes wide open like a possum caught in a car's headlights. I saw future friends, through a light haze of tear gas, address the students with a frenzy that you don’t see in New Zealand unless you are a mental health nurse. That has never left me. That raging passion for a fair chance from having studied madly for the larger part of their lives. Often at the cost of a childhood.
Australasians have it so very easy. For me to have qualified for a seat in DU on a level playing field is a comical concept. I certainly wouldn’t have got in the sports quota as sumo wrestling in India is still in it’s infancy. My Kiwi exam marks were an almost perfect inverse of the now ridiculous cut off marks.
Not everyone is disadvantaged enough to have an unfair advantage, such as being a Kiwi. This lack of opportunity, despite securing an average of 80% plus, is a matter of life and death to many students.
The tragedy of the annual suicides that darkly come with the admission season is proof to that. Young boys and girls who have pressures that many western children would simply not withstand for a mere morning. The years of family discipline that enforce daily hours long shifts of calculus and Shakespeare. Parents petrified at the thought of their loved children ill equipped in a society that has no Centrelink and then strongly projecting those intense fears on already stressed kids.
Frustratingly, these tragedies are not only driven by justifiably neurotic parents and elite colleges conducting ‘branding exercises’ but by the reality of sheer numbers mismatched by finite seats.
Delhi University has 54,000 seats with over 125,000 applicants. "It is a grave crisis that we need to look into. At least six more DU's are needed in the national capital region to meet the skewed ratio of demand and supply," said Pillai, The Vice-Chancellor of Indira Gandhi National Open University.
Other solutions have been put forward including a much wider program of evening classes in DU’s 70 colleges. This would have been a policy from heaven in my day. Our Doordarshan era dance parties were stifled by girls having 4 pm curfews. I think you’ll find students will have no incentive to graduate within 8 years and the necessary introduction of abnormally large crèches.
All this injustice is good news for Australasian education institutions. In fact it might give impetus to a phenomena where the intellectually less fortunate Indian students are the foreign students rather than the cream.
As when Malaysia exercised it’s prejudice against ethnic Chinese aspiring students and Australian and New Zealand Universities enjoyed a windfall, as they still do. The continued and strongly increasing prejudice of the Indian Government against her own aspiring students, albeit a universal prejudice, will ensure greater numbers will look abroad.
But what about students who do not come from business families who can afford foreign fees? What about students who don’t come from business families that can support perfectly good students that don’t have impossibly perfect scores?
They will have to live in a society that has very little opportunity for a ‘respectable’ position without a graduate qualification. It can be a nightmarish reality to exist in a vacuum of opportunity.
Young seventeen year old innocents know this. I feel deeply sad remembering the tears when friends saw their posted results. The student sitting next to me in an exam who was caught cheating. How he wept and begged with pressed hands to be excused. It was like he was begging for his life. He was.