Fishing For Votes in Schools

It is common knowledge that Mumbai suffers from a serious infrastructure deficit. Actually, most Indian metros suffer from the same malady – haphazard planning, serious shortage of civic amenities, transport squeeze, and so on. But, Mumbai’s politicians probably take the cake – they have discovered ways of adding to the deficit rather than remedying the situation. Scraping the bottom of the vote barrel, they have dredged up a desperate scheme – reserving 90% of junior college (or institutions that offer Plus-2 courses) seats for students from schools affiliated to the local SSC board. This leaves almost nothing for students from the other central boards, such as ICSE or CBSE.

Why is this an infrastructure issue? Actually, unbeknownst to many, Mumbai has only a few good schools. Most of the other metros can proudly boast of a large number of good schools. And, among the few good schools that the “Maximum City” city has, most are affiliated to the central boards. It has also probably escaped everybody’s notice how the city has ceased to be attractive for new business investments. The reason? Among the many irritants that confront newcomers to the city (such as, traffic), lack of a wide choice of good schools figures pretty high on the list. In fact, one expat Citibank CEO opted to relocate to Delhi because his kids had a wider choice of so-called good schools in that city.

The hare-brained 90% reservation scheme has been challenged in court, as it should be. This column suspects that Maharashtra’s Ashok Chavan government may not even be serious about implementing it – make the announcement, allow the bile to rise, encourage protests, fight the court cases, sit back and see the brownie points roll in. First, the education minister announced this scheme and caught everybody by surprise. This was roundly pooh-poohed by his senior party colleagues. Then, suddenly — one could almost see the bulb light up as realisation of the political dividends dawned — even the chief minister parachuted into the controversy by expressing his approval.

But, this is a cheap stunt. And, parents of children in SSC-administered schools should be careful before endorsing the scheme. They should see the idea for what it actually is – a cheap vote-catching gimmick. If this government is really serious about SSC students, it should first improve the syllabus. It has now been established beyond any doubt that SSC standards have fallen way behind the central boards, or even some of the other state-run education boards. Most of the SSC schools are in a state of disrepair, and many of them are owned by the state government. The quality of teachers is dropping in all schools, but at a faster rate in the SSC schools. The SSC board needs a long-term fix, not band-aid and plasters.

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4 thoughts on “Fishing For Votes in Schools

  1. While the issues in the post are valid, do spare a thought for the SSC students. How can you expect them to compete against the ICSE/CBSE students when their syllabus is relatively inferior and the examination method pathetic.

    A more rational way of providing an equitable distribution of seats among the SSC and CBSE/ICSE students would be to have a proportionate scheme. Since all the admissions are to be done in the centralised manner, the seat distribution could be in the proportion of the applicants from all the boards. If the CBSE/ICSE are more than 10% then they would benefit from it, wouldn't they?

    And onething worth noting, most of the CBSE / ICSE schools are serving the well off sections of the society, whereas the SSC is for the mass.

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  2. Agree broadly with the blog. Just to illustrate, a friend who studied in SSC here tells me that 4th,5th and 7th std history is devoted entirely to Maratha history / Shivaji. That is how skewed the syllabus is!

    Some thoughts: Bombay is a great city for singletons / those just starting off in their careers. As soon as people get married, they should start planning to move to delhi / blr.

    Once you have a car, a circle of friends and a good pay packet, then delhi / ncr is eminently bearable, and actually is more comfortable than bby.

    The lack of good schools, and the uneven distribution of them is reflected in the skewed real estate prices. look at WEST BANdra-Khar-Scruz (or WEST BANKS as I call it) – it has avm, avabai petit (girls), jasudben, podar and also dhirubhai, american school (for our beloved desi, abcd friends). And when compared to andheri it has a fewer population of couples with kids, and a large number of senior citizen (esp catholic) and singles, leading to easier admit chances for bandra residents.

    it is far harder for an andheri resident to get an admit – too few schools, and too many couples with kids.

    School distribution is reinforced by income distribution (leading to them being set up locally in the first place) and then reinforces income distribution (by forcing real estate prices and self-selecting the affluent. This is why in the US they have a voucher system. Dont know / think this will work in india, but would be useful to get someone's thoughts.

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  3. actually i am supportive of this 90:10 move because the logic and reasoning given behind it seems valid. icsi and cbse boards give lenient marking and thereby higher marks, which therefore deprives even good ssc student from getting admission to a reputed college. actually, the issue is of infrastructure, right, infrastructure to house some additional college rooms at the icse/ cbse schools at the plus 2 levels. icse/cbse students would be better off having their own colleges because then they can follow their own syllabus upto 12th and plus they will have less headache dealing with having to wait for ssc results to be completed and then having to wait endlessly to find out which college they have got admission to. it is only a question of two years, after which everybody goes to the university, so i feel the icse/cbse students should accept the 90:10 formula and icse/cbse schools should start admitting students to their own colleges. i don't think there is a constitutional issue here, unfortunately anything and everything becomes anti-constitutional without any rationale and reasoning.

    on another front, i welcome kapil sibal's idea of having one single board across india, it is a great idea, which if implemented will be an ideal solution. round of comments on kapil sibal's proposals……….

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  4. Already, in the good traditions of the Congress Party, people have started saying that Kapil Sibal should not have talked about this particularly the 100 day promise without checking with the High Command. The leftists have pointed out that Education is a concurrent subject and states should have been consulted.

    CBSE is not really elitist – the central schools have lots of children of lower ranks in the Govt and the army

    The 90:10 formula may seem unfair in Mumbai but travel no further than Pune and you will find that the formula will assure seats for all CBSE students.

    – Vaikuntam
    270609

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