Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cutting Off Competition! HRD Minister calls it "unfortunate" and "irrational"

India's human resource development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal has criticised the Shri Ram College of Commerce, or SRCC, for setting its cut-off for admission to the B.Com. (Honors) course at 100%. Describing it as "unfortunate" and "irrational", Sibal has asked Delhi University Vice-Chancellor Dinesh Singh to step in and remedy the situation. Sibal's concern has been echoed by political parties too.

The Congress has expressed concern over the new cut-off for humanities and science students applying for commerce courses. Party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said: "Some serious anomalies must be there. HRD minister has taken note of it. We hope the anomalies are set right. Certainly, it would not be correct for students to suffer unnecessarily." The BJP described the situation as ridiculous. Party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said: "It is ridiculous. This means that students from some streams cannot get admission to certain courses. The Delhi University should look into the matter."

In a bid to reassure students and parents, Sibal said: "I was sad to hear it. I want to reach out to parents and students and tell them don't worry. We will take care of this irrationality. We are on your side." The minister took the opportunity to push forward the agenda to reform the college admission process. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has already sought public feedback on the idea of a national testing system for admission to higher education or tertiary sector.

A paper, "National Test Scheme for admission into tertiary Education in India: Underlying Philosophy and Principles" ---prepared by a committee headed by T. Ramasami, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology --- gives a broad overview of the principles that will govern the proposed system. The ministry has put up the paper for public feedback. The committee has argued that a national testing system would help increase the spread of students who can seek admission to higher education institutions. "Majority of youth living in smaller towns and far-flung places as well as economically weaker segments of society are not able to join the competitive stream today the present system seems to be unwittingly promoting a societal behaviour and mindset towards differentiation rather than integration," the report states.

Meanwhile, responding to the minister's intervention, DU V-C Dinesh Singh has promised the government and the students that he would look into the matter and make sure that the cutoffs are revised downwards. Singh said the varsity was looking at reforming the processes.

Students who have not studied any of the papers related to the commerce stream, that is accountancy, business studies, economics and maths, at the class XII level are required to have scored 100% to gain admission to the B.Com. (H) course at SRCC. Students who have studied any one of these subjects are required to have scored 96% to be considered for admission. In effect, science students, who have studied physics, chemistry, biology and English, will find it next to impossible to gain admission. Students from the humanities stream are anyhow not considered for admission to undergraduate courses in commerce and science streams.

"I am informed by the Delhi University Vice-Chancellor that there is only one student in the entire list who has got a 100% mark in science. He may never go to commerce. The idea is to exclude everybody in the science stream and not to allow them an opportunity. This is completely irrational," Sibal said. He added that setting a high cut-off for science students for admission to commerce courses was putting a barrier to keep science students away. Sibal said: "We cannot slot children in a way that those who are in science can't go to commerce."

However, SRCC Principal Dr. P.C. Jain was not perturbed by the HRD minister's intervention. Instead, Jain argued that cut-offs were high because students had performed exceptionally well in their school leaving examination. "The performance of students has been extraordinary this year, that's why the cut-off is so high. There is nothing unfortunate. In fact, it is very fortunate that students in this country are performing so well. The criterion is an old practice that has been followed, so nothing like that it has been done deliberately to keep the non-commerce students out of SRCC," Jain explained.

Even as DU V-C reiterated Jain's rationale for a high cut-off, Singh assured that cut-off marks would be brought down subsequently. "Last year in CBSE examination, students who scored more than 95% were 200. This year there are 800. There are high scoring groups now. Therefore, colleges are being cautious in the first cut-off, The high cut-offs are because of very high percentages. The students have received very good marks in their boards," Singh said.

Source: The Economic Times, June 16, 2011

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