Friday, July 15, 2005

Two flawed decisions

This post has been long pending and I finally thought of writing it before it became outdated. It’s about two government decisions, both of which I think are shortsighted and flawed. The first one (and still openly debated one) is the central governments decision to ban smoking in movies. Of course I am not one of those freaks who demand total freedom of expression, but this is a different case altogether.

The first point is that movies are reflecting mostly only things which happen in the society. If we ban smoking in movies, it’s like pretending that there is no smoking in our society. By refusing to acknowledge the problem of prostitution, not only does it grow unabated but we are also in an unenviable position with regards to AIDS. I can’t stop myself from remembering Marquez’s quote on self-deception here. Of course when mass heroes smoke in a positive character, then it does promote some people to take up smoking. But there are other methods to prevent this from happening. Like making Censor laws more stringent and categorizing films more – but the censor system here seems so broke that I may as well write an entire blog post on it. But still reforming the Censor system would solve many other problems like excessive sleaze in many of today’s movies.

The problem with a ban on smoking is that it prevents even deliberately negative depiction of smoking, which in the absence of other positive promotions, would serve to reduce incidence of smoking. And of course, politicians may also come up with innovative ideas of banning other ‘bad’ things like drinking, rape, roberry etc. from movies which would make them totally divorced from reality. And of course these things existed even when there were no movies! Actually I can’t still believe one person’s ‘passion’ could convince the entire cabinet on this. Anbumani Ramadoss, the health minister, had told a few months ago in an interview to a Tamil magazine that there would be a ban on smoking, drinking in movies. Then I thought that he had also begun to talk like his father, but now I can scarcely believe that it has become a law. Nowadays it seems anything can become a law here, which leads me to the next topic.

Recently Jayalalitha ruled that entrance exam would no longer be conducted for admission to professional courses and also that the marks of the exam conducted this year won’t be considered for this year’s admissions. The last bit is too ridiculous for anyone even unfamiliar with the topic. This is since, if this is implemented it would be like wasting the time students spent on entrance exam preparations. Any decision like this need to be taken at least one year in advance. Since entrance exams have existed for the last 20 years or so, suddenly announcing this is like government breaking its promise given to the students regarding the mode of admission. Thankfully, the high court overturned this order and the supreme court has refused to stay high court’s order, as a result of which, Jayalaitha has finally conceded to do this year’s admissions by including entrance marks.

The following are the reasons why I feel the order doesn’t serve any useful purpose even in long term. The reason offered by government is that rural students would benefit from this, as they don’t have access to entrance exams coaching centers. Even assuming the last part is true (which should be itself studied), the following are my arguments –

  • Let us say that the pattern of public examinations are not changed, i.e not made tougher. Then there are two problems –
    • The current pattern of public exam tests more of rote learning and neat handwriting-drawing skills than intellectual skills. Even then, the marks are always very subjective, since the correctors can’t obviously read everything and also there would be some totaling mistakes. The entrance exams, on the other hand are computer corrected. This almost rules out totaling errors and questions also tend encourage more objective thinking.
    • With the number of centums and multiple centums always increasing (I guess more than 300 students have centums in all subjects for engineering), it won’t be difficult to imagine a situation where the number of students getting centums in all relevant subjects would itself outnumber the seats in a particular prestigious college. This is in fact more applicable for medicine and even more for O.C (non backward caste) candidates. Introducing other things like marks of language subjects, age or past marks to break this often occurring tie would be height of nonsense. This inevitably leads to the next point.
  • The government had already proposed to make the public exams more ‘objective’ and hence (though this is not told) more tougher. So what would happen if all the questions in the public exam were to be made objective – it would almost appear like the entrance exam! And of course we are told to believe that the well-oiled coaching machines in the cities won’t find a way to coach on this paper. Even reaching some kind of middle way solution would be making public exams more tougher making urban students with more coaching benefit from it.
In the end the government is not changing anything! And it is making things unnecessarily tough for CBSE and ICSE students, since they would not be able to attend this public exam (unlike the entrance exam). Obviously this is all done with the upcoming assembly polls in mind and that’s why all the parties are forced to ‘support’ this move.

The real pity in this is that two issues which require real debating (and not such hasty decisions) have been ignored here. One is to prevent the hassle of students writing multiple entrance exams. In fact, it would be good to standardize this even across the entire country. The other is to promote better methods of examinations where the creativity of students is tested along with their technical knowledge. This would be the one which would prevent the growth of coaching institutes. I think CBSE public exams test creativity quite a bit, but I have heard some students say that they are way too subjective. But at least we must look for a solution without escaping with rules like these.


sriram said...

I COMPLETELY agree with you.

@mit said...

Good Post - Bulls Eye

I have similar thoughts (posted in a lighter vein on my Blog)

Harinath Mallepally said...

they could change or can have any policy but unfortunately there is no spirit. at the end it is the students who suffer. there used to be all india MCA entrace (introduced last year) and is not there now because the govt is changed from NDA to UPA.

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