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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Admission Tests/ Entrance Tests - A Way To Solicit Success

Education for all is a buzzword in almost all the countries in the world. In India too it has been gaining prominence for a while now and in Aug 2009 the government finally passed the Right to Education bill which guarantees free and compulsory education to all children between six and fourteen years of age.

But there are two glitches and major ones at that. First is the fees being charged by the schools. Besides the state sponsored schools, which have a common fee structure across the board, other schools are not governed by any common criteria. The unaided schools can charge as they like irrespective of the facilities available. The well to do people can afford most of these schools and are anyway sending their kids to reasonably good schools, hence they are not the ones to really benefit from the Right to Education bill. They can benefit if the fees are standardized and maybe then they can send their kids to schools which thus far were beyond their reach. For example the International Schools which are cropping up faster than the kids dropping out of schools charge anywhere between Rupees One to Seven lakhs. The middle class which, by the way, is much smaller in numbers than the lower income group can not afford these ridiculous fees for education. Yesterday only the Home minister P Chidambram said that institutes should not become money minting machines, not realizing that the successive governments of India, with their policies, are the ones which have caused such factories to be established.

As a result the kids who do get the admissions in these schools are those who would anyway not require the education considering that their parents are going to leave them a hefty inheritance and maybe a business too. Take for example the kids of Shah Rukh Khan and Sachin Tendulkar. Do you think it is going to matter much to them which schools they passed out from. But Dhirubhai Ambani International school can justify their high fees to other students just based on the premise of being colloeagues of these star sons and daughters.

The second major stumbling block is the entrance tests for school admissions. At a higher level an entrance test is still understood which can be used to gauge or establish a student's ability to cope with the curriculum. But admission tests for second and third grade, when the child barely understands the purpose of education or for that matter tests, is asking for a bit too much. The admission tests at this level, in my opinion, serve only one purpose. Filtration of the weak and financially unsound kids. Essentially all the schools, in their bid to enhance their reputation and subsequently the fees, are ensuring that no weak child, academically or financially weak, is admitted to their school so that can continue to showcase the good results of their students. Is there any purpose solved by such a school which takes the credit of the brilliance and efforts of their students to position themselves as a good school?

What ever happens to the fairness in the system? Education for All!! A report says that the dropout rate of the students is so high that only 12% of the students make it to a college. The global average is close to 40%. Can we blame the students for that when in school itself the institutions start filtering out the students by way of admission / entrance test or by imposing a high fee structure on the student. The students which benefit(?) from the Right to Education bill are those who will probably get admission to state run or municipality run schools which incidentally are the ones which fail to nurture the students or create an interest in them to pursue studies.

Talking of Admission tests, if a child fails to secure admission in a particular school, shouldn't the previous school/s be taken to task for not being able to bring him to a standard where he could clear an admission test based on the same syllabus. Or are we accepting the failures or the inability of our schools to provide agood standard of education. How can we give fair and equal education to all if we have already accepted that some institutions will be better than the others? We can not shirk away from our responsibility by just providing free admission to kids in a school which does little towards education and providing free lunches to the kids.

Right to Education means nothing. The bill will have a meaning if it is made Right to Quality Education.

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