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Systemic faults

VINAYA DESHPANDE
IN MUMBAI

The high cut-offs could make students select new but promising disciplines they wouldn't have considered before.

The word ‘cut-off' invokes a feeling of dissatisfaction in Mumbai, among both the students and the principals. The reasons are different though. The students feel that however hard they work, they just don't seem to make it to their dream college. The principals raise systemic issues and feel that that the marking system itself is “chaotic and imbalanced, which makes a mockery of good evaluation.”

“The cut-offs are on the rise. Getting more than 80 per cent in disciplines like arts and commerce is just not enough. The competition is getting tougher by the day. But the most depressing thing is that there are a lot of reserved seats. There is 45 per cent reservation for Christians in St. Xavier's college. Their cut-offs are half the cut-offs for us. There should be merit-wise admission,” Vasundhara Rajeshirke, a Class XII student said. She wasn't the only one. Many students rued the reservation of seats, feeling it deprived them of seats which they would have got on the basis of merit. Nikita Mondkar, another student who recently passed Class XII said, “It has become very competitive. That is also because the reserved category gets too much preference.”

The principals raised systemic issues. Father Frazer Mascarenhas, principal of St. Xavier's College, one of the most sought-after colleges for traditional courses in humanities, social sciences and basic sciences, said, “The whole system of education in India has gone wrong from Class X onwards. The courses between Class 10 and 12 reward rote learning. There is no focus on concepts. The question papers are set in such a manner that fetching 100 per cent marks is possible.”

Father Mascarenhas says the real problem is that question papers are not set to test creativity. “The level of difficulty of papers should be such that the result should reflect normal distribution curve,” he said.

For most of the traditional undergraduate courses, seats are reserved for in-house students who pass their Class XII from the same college. But the competition intensifies for admission to Class XI, where students vie for the best of colleges. High cut-offs hit the most at that level.

Allure of new disciplines

But there is growing trend of students opting for new disciplines, which have more demand in the professional industry. “Many students prefer integrated courses or applied disciplines like biotechnology, mass media, etc. There is no reservation for in-house students for such courses and the competition is very high,” Professor Devayani Ganpule, Vice-Principal (Senior College), Ramnarayan Ruia College of Arts and Science said.

Various educationists rued that the demand for pure science courses had plunged considerably. Thus, the cut-off for B.Sc. courses can be as low as 50 per cent. “There is total misconception among students that professional courses give better opportunities. If you see the syllabus, the basic concepts are the same and they are taught much better in a B.Sc. course. More often than not, a B.Sc. Chemistry student gets a job more quickly than a B.Sc. Biotechnology student. Then they feel disappointed and disillusioned,” Vatsala Pai, former Vice Principal of Ramnarayan Ruia College said.

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