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Looking Outside the Books: Beyond Exams, Admissions & Degrees

Just like every year, the time has again come for students to prep up for admissions in colleges, keep track of the cut-off percentages in the colleges of their choice and prepare well for the entrance exams, so they can finally be a part of the university they want to.

But things are not so hunky-dory, especially in this sweltering heat, with the rush for admissions already begun.

While the students looking for an admission in undergraduate courses mostly have to match their scores in best four subjects in their school streams with the cut off marks of their chosen university, the students coming for post-graduate and PG diploma courses have to keep a track of when the forms would come for each of the colleges they want to apply in, fill up the forms and submit them before the due date and appear for entrance exams, as an when scheduled. It is, however, the university that decides if some weightage needs to be given to the marks secured in Class XIIth boards and during graduation or the selection will be purely entrance-based.

Delhi University, like many others has an online application process where there are both merit-based (weightage on marks secured in class XIIth) and entrance-based courses (appearing for entrance tests is mandatory for selection).

On 16th May, Jawaharlal Nehru University conducted entrance exams for under-graduate, post-graduate courses, MPhil, Ph.D. and MTech programmes and witnessed a footfall of about 60,000 students. This meant that about 30 students had competed for one seat.

Recently acquired the status of a state, Telangana too came up with its own set of entrance exams on 10th May when it conducted admissions for students appearing for the Telangana Residential Junior Colleges (TSRJC). The results were based on both merit in the Entrance test and the aegis of the colleges on Reservation.

With the competition in the academic sphere growing every minute, the stress, peer pressure, an urge to score a better percentile is on the rise too. There is very less of a breather that these students get after their board exams are over. In fact, the rat race does not start in one’s professional life; it has become a part of our being since the high school days where all we know is if we do not score distinction marks (75 %), we will not be able to get a choice in stream selection for the XIIth boards. The unhealthy, maddening competition strikes a student far earlier today than what it did even a generation before.

Even one mark or a 0.5 % higher score would make so much of a difference in today’s student’s mark sheet that they are willing to instigate teachers against a certain student, weep to convince the teacher for some more marks, stalk their fellow classmates or other students preparing for a similar exam, steal notes, argue with teachers while comparing themselves to their classmates or even compromise on their own health to take extra tuitions or burden themselves with the rote system, where they would even memorize answers to a Mathematics sum or a Physics numerical.

This urge to compete just changes faces from the school to college/university to a corporate set-up and grows till one reaches the top of the ladder but the urge to be at the top never really declines.

With the universities now being more open to outstation students and reaching out to potential student candidates to enroll African students, or the ones in North East or even countries Far East or up north, the competition is reaching a greater level. While DU has already begun its search for African students in a ‘special drive’ and even received over 300 applications from the students of Africa, Miranda House (affiliated to DU) has gone as far as opening centres in Manipur which will encourage learning through experiments, exchange programmes and field visits, that hopes to include students both from North east as well as other colleges.

This will further increase the pressure on the students back home as an even more number of students will now be seen competing for a single seat. The situation becomes worse for the students under General Quota with quite a good number of seats already ‘reserved’ for students under quota of SC/ST/OBC or even Defence categories.

A recent news report also recorded how Mumbai students had to cope with preparing themselves differently for boards and the subsequent entrance exams, not only because of the difference in the types of exams but also because of the difference in syllabus. The inability to study and crack these national level examinations after studying for the much-hyped ICSE and CBSE Boards, especially when the reference materials, study books, etc. differ causes many to go under severe depression or even commit suicides.

Living under this constant pressure causes panic among the students and their parents alike. Adding to this is the unfortunate fact that teaching methodologies are still old-fashioned while syllabi are upgraded and made even more difficult and competitive.

The Boards have already gained a significant stature in terms of the pressure to score high, and now with the cut-off marks going higher day by day along with the pressure to do well in entrance exams to be selected for a course or college of choice – life has been narrowed down to performances, scores, institutionalized education and degrees with little or no importance given to instincts, creativity,  imagination and the idea of just competing with yourself (instead of with others) to grow in your field of study.

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