Monday, July 06, 2009

The 90:10 challenge!

Finally, the Bombay High Court (surprising, it is still called Bombay High Court) has dumped the Maharashtra Govt order providing 90% reservation to students from the State Board, applying to junior colleges within the State.


It was some 25 years ago, when I was a SSC student who had stood 2nd in school and secured admission into the Science stream of one of the premier junior colleges of that time. Out of the roughly 100 students in my class, about 40% were from the CBSE and ICSE boards. In those days, students passing out of these Boards had an additional weightage of 5% (Percent, mind you, not marks, so that was really huge).

These guys used to have a certain aura around them – at least that’s what I felt. Let me explain why. They were not really snooty; in fact my entire circle consisted of only CBSE/ ICSE guys, since most of the SSC guys were from vernacular schools, with whom I used to have a problem relating to). In Standard XI, the standard of curriculum suddenly appeared to have risen sharply. The complexity and volume of the syllabus was far higher than what I had been used to upto the SSC level. And my friend circle from the ICSE and CBSE found the same curriculum a breeze. Reason – most of it had already been covered in their respective courses back in school. And for the rest of us hapless SSC guys, it was a major struggle coping with the stress.


That experience of my own in Junior College convinced me that the level of studies in the ICSE and CBSE Boards most definitely provided a superior quality of student given the same IQ level and genetic background. It was this belief that led me to shift my own kid from the SSC School that she was going, to a recently opened ICSE school. The sense of urgency to make this shift was also on account of the fact that the number of ICSE schools were on the rise. Hence, in my kid’s generation the percentage of her peers who get an ICSE exposure would also be higher (than the relatively smaller percentage in my generation).

My hunch was right. The change was felt right from the first month of the shift. The volume of studies was far higher, but not stressful. It was richer in content, but not demanding on the student’s overall time and effort.


It was thus, with a great deal of frustration, that I heard about the Maharashtra Governments order to have a 90:10 quota system for SSC/ non-SSC students applying for junior colleges.

1. The ICSE and CBSE boards do not have sufficient number of their own junior colleges – hence the students have to forcibly move into the State Board stream to further pursue their studies. Discriminating against them therefore, is unfair.
2. Further, the issue is that of shortage of seats. If all the ICSE/ CBSE guys had actually studied in SSC format, then they would have fallen into the same category as the present SSC students – in such a situation, how would the Govt have tackled the seat shortage issue?
3. The Government has to remember that while the Boards might have been from Maharashtra, the Students are locals. Discriminating against them on flimsy grounds is not only unfair, but is only postponing the problem of seat shortage.
4. Adjustment of grades to account for difference in grading systems between the two streams can be done to a limited extent. That can take care of the misgivings which SSC students have about the regional language compulsion which they claim brings down their percentages.

On a long term Basis, the ICSE and CBSE boards would need to plan for extending their courses upto Standard XII. This alone would help resolve this issue as well as make sure that the quality of education enjoyed by these students is sustained.