Friday, June 29, 2012

So you got Delhi University? I don't think so.

I never did well in school. No. I did brilliantly. Yes I admit I never bothered much about my report card at the end, and that did pull my grades down. Instead I immersed myself in reading a few good books that caught my attention, exploring different genres in music, looking up different kinds of art, fiddling around with cameras and processing(Not editing mind you, there is no such thing). I wondered why all the electronic music stalwarts were coming from the Netherlands. I wondered why metal was so popular in Norway and in a few strange instances even in rural India… I wondered why being an entrepreneur did not command the same respect as a being an officer in the administrative services in this great country. I ate, drank, slept and ‘wasted time’. I watched movies in foreign languages with titles I cannot pronounce. I played guitar, noted down song ideas and wrote short stories. I read ebooks which were not a part of my course majority of that time. I did not get along with most of my peers, for a few shared similar interests, but unlike me were not willing to give it as much time.

My family was never impressed, and heated exchanges would inevitably surface. This would always end in the same manner- That all of this was going to take me nowhere. The school band, the blog, the research on subject s that I will never be able to study. In short like majority of the Indian families, mine however being more liberal of the lot I must add, I was a liability where social grace was concerned.  Certificates and trophies in sports, debates, theatre, or music were pretty much worthless. And quite frankly I didn’t care at first, but towards the later end of school, I was in a situation where as much as I refused to believe people who wanted to work upon their own ideas could never make a living. And I believed it. That was one hell of a week.

My family has produced more than it's fair share of  professors and researchers, back home and abroad who love research, who love teaching, who love studying, who live to find, seek and share knowledge.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love studying too. I love studying different mixing techniques, acoustics, music, art, dance, different cultures, policy and ideology, substance abuse, what makes people and society tick? Things that this country unfortunately does not allow you study together. So in retrospect, I never really had any ‘incentive’ as such to do well where marks were concerned. So I did just that, worked for just enough so I could get out of the claustrophobic environment I was in. And in subjects like Business that supposedly required heavy duty cramming, I did pretty well. I was ahead of the class so as to say. English was nice as long as my teachers were grading the papers, unfortunately I think my handwriting must have been highly illegible for the examiners under CBSE to understand what I was trying to say. In fact it must have been terrible compared to the students who found it hard to frame a single grammatically correct sentence to be able to get their point across.

In the middle of twelfth grade I realized that I had already lost enough time to prepare well enough to get into a public university to pursue a regular course, and even if I did, apart from four  subjects that interested me (and are still deemed to have no value where as a ‘career’ is concerned) there wasn't much on offer.

Today, a year later when I’ve managed to find my way into the best place to be for media studies, people ask me if I’m happy.  Well, the reality is I’m not. Well not completely, I’m not happy with my pictures, I’m not happy with the compositions,with the stories, I’m not happy with not getting results I want. I am also feeling the lack of any solid research work. But yes there’s no other place I’d rather be.

But what saddens me is that I see a whole new bunch of kids coming out of school, with exceptional grades, who’ve put very little thought into what they want to do. And they have barely a week or so to decide.

What happens when a person who likes the idea of Sociology, takes it up, and realizes it’s not his cup of tea? What happens when a person who liked English in school takes it up only to find out how crucial and critical, critical essays can be? What happens when a person has to compromise on a decent enough college that’s running on little more than brand value, passed on from generation to generation over a course of his or her choice?

I’m seeing people who just want to clear the cut offs for a subject they never wanted to take up just to prove a point. I’m seeing bright people with talents that can be turned into skill sets to be reckoned with taking up subjects that will give them very little time, or allow them to mix with the right people to let that happen. I’m seeing an entire generation of underachievers who have never been allowed to make decisions for themselves or to think about what’s really worth getting up in the morning and working 60 hours a week for.

So naturally I am very pissed off with Mr Vineet Joshi(Chairman CBSE), who recently said CBSE marks were not meant for college admissions. What is that even supposed to mean? His reckoning is, that no one should get a 100% in English, but at the same time he cannot tell examiners to not give marks. Is it just me or if CBSE was a private institution he’d be sacked for even making such a statement? He doesn’t mention what he’s doing about it. Just like every other bureaucrat, he’s probably assured of his promotion after a fixed period of time and he doesn’t have to look at how to spend the money that’s allotted to him, but to look at spending it all.

One, our SSCs, HSCs or whatever don’t let young bright people pursue any real study which in my opinion lies in research than textbook learning. Two, the schools continue to segregate subjects on the basis of ‘streams’ even though most boards allow any combination of six subjects. Yes you read that right. Three, a society where people concede to the fear of failure more than the thrill of winning or the rush of creative satisfaction keeps the next generation from fending for themselves and building any self confidence. Four our universities continue in their archaic fashion for the purpose of producing   good bureaucrats and there is virtually no research at the undergraduate level. Same shit,  different day.

Add to that a mix of caste based reservations and you’ve got a perfect recipe for this country’s future to go to hell. 

What do you do in times of turmoil? Reach out for help? Cope? But where do they go?
Is it very surprising then, that with such an uncertain future, with very little space to think for themselves, and look within, discover their interests and pursue them, and be forced into believing that coveted honours courses in public universities are the only way to go, they may resort to ‘activities’ not accepted by society as a whole?

Is it really surprising then, that binge drinking under the age of 18, sometimes as early as the age of 12 is on the rise? Is it surprising that experimentation with marijuana starts as early as at the age of 12 today?  Is it really surprising that more than 52% of help seekers from Snehi, an organisation that pioneered the concept of telephonic and online counselling, are below the age of 25, and maximum number of calls are during examination results/admission season?

So why is it surprising when the best colleges in the best university in this country have such a high dropout rate, when after 13 years of being brainwashed into not settling for less, one is in fact forced to do the very same? More so if one comes on a reservation and/or does not have a solid foundation to take on the subject and see it through.    

So while I’m glad that a few students who worked hard, got the course they wanted in the college they wanted, I feel very sorry for the few who’ve cleared cut offs but have no idea about what they wish to pursue....and of course the majority who don’t really have a choice.

So for them, while some may have gotten into Delhi University, they didn’t really ‘get’ Delhi University if you know what I mean.  Course over college? Any fucking day.  When campus placements and getting a ‘job’ to help get by seemingly become more of a motivator than creating a niche for yourself, you’re in trouble.  By the time this new lot graduates, chances are that India will be facing its worse economic crisis in history, tremors of which are being felt already.  Until the government starts looking at people’s resumes before putting them in charge of making public policy, we’re all in big trouble indeed.

PS: I wanted to title this with "University of Calcutta" for kicks in case some Trinamool leader wanted to shut my blog down. And it'd be really amusing for a supporter of free markets to be labeled a commie. But nevertheless.


Radhika said...

"real study which in my opinion lies in research than textbook learning. Two, the schools continue to segregate subjects on the basis of ‘streams’ even though most boards allow any combination of six subjects."
I strongly agree to that. When it comes to the foreign education system, there is no such thing like 'streams.' One chooses the subjects one's interested in. And research? It forms the main basis of a university's rank.
Hah! India's nowhere even close to that.

Essay Tea said...

it's funny. because i'm in the exact situation you're talking about, i can't really say much without seeming hypocritical, self-satisfied and/or douchey. a lot of what you said is actually pretty pertinent since i'm one of those people who don't know what they want to do. or, to be precise, i know exactly what i want to do, i just don't know what to do first. in the end, all i can do is try to stay positive, consider all my options carefully and hope that even if i do screw up, it'll just help me to eventually find something i love and stick with it.
on a different note, i like how you used the varying font sizes for emphasis. simple enough, but it gets the message across and keeps one hooked even though this is a slightly longish post.
good to read your stuff after such a long time. solid as ever.

PeaBee said...

Well. I turned down quite a few amazing options, for various reasons. Im going to do English from LSR now. Hope Im doing the right thing!
And DU is bloody stupid, that goes without saying, really. CBSE too.

Yash Bajaj said...

I dont think that CBSE can be blamed for this, neither can DU. The problem is more fundamental. When Mr. Vineet Joshi says, that one needs to draw a line b/w achievement exams and selection exams, he really does make a point. The responsibility of the CBSE, is infact, secondary education,or , schooling. The class XII board exams, also indicate the level of learning, and one's success at it, during schooling.When a person gets a 97, while the other gets a 93, the score doesn't pass a value judgement on the ability of one to get into SRCC over the other, that, is something that the society, and the current system (or the lack of it) puts across. What this score indicates, is the degree and sense of achievement at a rather personal level. A person with a 93, might have a greater feeling of achievement than perhaps the one who got a 97 (because he expected a 98). I think that is what Mr. Joshi means by calling it an "achievement exam". However, now take the IIT JEE for instance. The objective there, is to select the best possible candidate at each and every level of the selection process. That is why colleges like CBS have a 3-tier entrance system. The objective is to eliminate the not-so-good candidates. Hence, a "selection" process comes through.
This is where one needs to draw a line b/w an achievement exam and a selection exam. Hence, CBSE marks are not the absolute criteria for entrance to institutions of higher education. Perhaps a more holistic approach could be adopted. (Like the SATs) In this way, students shall not rely on their ultimate stroke of luck in the 3 hr examination to book a seat in a college. Rather, it would push them to start thinking about the career option they shall like to pursue, through their years of schooling, and not just a mere week.

UjjwalRaaj said...

@Radhika : Research is the way to go! And streams are decided by schools, not education systems in this country! Read up on what Brazil did to boost research in their country and hence improve overall education in that country. Brilliant stuff.

@Essay Tea: Whatever you choose, make sure the co curricular stuff won't be compromised. Liberal Artish courses I know you'd love.

Amogh said...

I guess I'll leave a comment an year from now. ;)

Anyhoo solid post

UjjwalRaaj said...

@Yash Bajaj: While I agree with most of what you've said, I can't help but feel that even in the United States, SATs are also an added requirement. High school scores are still given immense importance. However, while in the UK, admissions are solely on the basis of High school scores and other requirements, if one is to do design, then a portfolio

Yes for courses like Law, Medicine and Engineering, an standardized test is necessary.

I think instead of having so many entrance exams, if students in creative fields were asked for their portfolio first thing, they'd start making it long time from before.

But then again, there would probably be a guy making them for a sum of money. Sadly our country works this way. There are people who write PhD papers for cash. As amusing as it is, it is also very worrying.

The high school curriculum in at least the Central boards should be as such, as they leave one right at the doorstep of higher education.

And yes, like CBS, or Symbiosis, I am definitely for a selection process that involves an interview and group discussion at the least.

Pitha said...


You've said everything I've always wanted to and more. Bravo.

Sanjana M said...

You should write blog posts more often. I really enjoy reading your stuff.

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