Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What is General Merit?

The hottest topic right now in India is fortunately about education, but unfortunately about reservation in the top technological and management institutions. The IITs and IIMs have bracketed themselves with the elite in the world and it is a student's dream to find a place here. High end ambitions, cherished dreams, endless hours of slogging, physical and mental strength are tested to no limits when a student decides to compete in the entrance exams of these institutions. IIT entrance exam is the toughest exam at that level for a college student to clear and IIM entrance exam is similarly demanding for MBA aspirants.

What happens when politics is mixed with education? The net result is nothing but total chaos. India is definitely a place of unequal proportions. There is a large section of the society which is struggling to cope up with the basic needs. Truly, everybody empathises with this situation. There is an overpowering need to improve the below-poverty section of the society. The government should provide them the facility that will enable them to procure a decent social status in the society. India is known for its cultural diversity. What is the point in dividing the country based on casteism. Is the government looking at increasing the vote bank by introducing quotas to premier education institutions? I am sure that if such is the case, the Congress party will end up losing all its supporters in the next elections. This move of quotas has already generated flak from all sections of the society. India should be looking at long term goals instead of staving off minor obstacles. India is a major player in the global arena and such moves will end up with a negative impact on India's social system. As such there are only 3000 seats in the IITs with more than three lakh students competing every year. The probability of a student getting a seat in IIT is as low as one hundredth which is much lower than some of the world's best schools. When this is the level of toughness associated with these exams, how can the government adopt preferential treatment towards certain section of the society. The reservations currently stand at about 22.3 % in these institutions. Increasing this to 49% means the general merit has only 1500 seats, which is highly ridiculous.

I am sure it is just a matter of time that quota will tend to 100%. The government will face a different problem. How to introduce reservations for general merit category? I am sure we will be seeing headlines of a different sort, 1% reservation for merit students. This will lead to nationwide protests and the governement will withdraw that too to appease the sentiments of the "majority".

Most of them have expressed their criticism against reservations. I got this mail as a forward wherein the writer has expressed his views in a different manner.

I think we should have job reservations in all the fields. I completely support the PM and all the politicians for promoting this. Let's start the reservation with our cricket team. We should have 10 percent reservation for Muslims. 30 percent for OBC, SC/ST like that. Cricket rules should be modified accordingly. The boundary circle should be reduced for an SC/ST player. The four hit by an OBC player should be considered as a six and a six hit by a OBC player should be counted as 8 runs. An OBC player scoring 60 runs should be declared as a century.

We should influence ICC and make rules so that the pace bowlers like Shoaib Akhtar should not bowl fast balls to our OBC player. Bowlers should bowl maximum speed of 80 kilometre per hour to an OBC player. Any delivery above this speed should be made illegal.

Also we should have reservation in Olympics. In the 100 meters race, an OBC player should be given a gold medal if he runs 80 meters.

There can be reservation in Government jobs also. Let's recruit SC/ST and OBC pilots for aircrafts which are carrying the ministers and
politicians (that can really help the country.. )

Ensure that only SC/ST and OBC doctors do the operations for the ministers and other politicians. (Another way of saving the country..)

So, what do you think???


  1. hey..that was very well put..i agree with you totally..they are ruining everything with these quotas...i mean IIT and IIM with 49% reservations is ridiculous...all standards will be lost...

  2. Financial help-understandable.

    Educational reservations??? Is anyone born intelligent?

    Arjun Singh MOF fails to understand this.

    well the only plus point i can see is, a PESIT grad is better than 50% IITians.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. What "merit" are we talking of anyway ? Scores in entrance exams at age of 17?

    Take the claim of "merit based" entrance to all IIMs and dozens of other institutes.

    The CAT exam is based on the SAT exam in the USA . It has been proved beyond doubt that the SAT test is culturally biased . Blacks and hispanics do poorly at it year after year .

    If a student who is eligible for admission to IIM on the basis of his CAT score, were to take the same CAT exam in which he/she cleared in a language that he/she did not understand then he/she would be at a disadvantage compared to someone who was schooled in that language . Not knowing that language does not mean you lack the capacity to clear that exam.

    Approximately 25 % of CAT test is about English! Another 25 % is about English Comprehension!!!! There you are !!!! About 50 % so called aptitude test is a hoax for someone who is from a non-english speaking background .

    This is how the CAT like the SAT is discriminatory .

    See the full form of SAT …Scholastic Aptitude Test . The problem is aptitude testing is not so simple . There is no test on earth which can reliably tests aptitude .

    Aptitude tests such as the SAT have a historical tie to the concept of innate mental abilities and the belief that such abilities can be defined and meaningfully measured. Neither notion has been supported by modern research. Few scientists who have considered these matters seriously would argue that aptitude tests such as the SAT provide a true measure of intellectual abilities.

    It was found that people could be coached to better their scores at SAT . The name SAT …Scholastic Aptitude Test could not be correct . So under such valid criticism the name was changed to Scholastic Assessment Test, since a test that can be coached clearly did not measure inherent "scholastic aptitude", but was influenced largely by what the test subject had learned in school. Even the College Board which conducts the SAT has beaten a hasty retreat.This was a major theoretical retreat by the College Board conducting SAT, which had previously maintained that the test measured inherent aptitude and was free of bias.

    About ten years back , however, even the redundancy of the term assessment test was recognized and the name was changed to the neutral, and non-descriptive, SAT. At the time, the College Board announced, "Please note that SAT is not an initialism. It does not stand for anything."

    The framers of these SAT tests assumed that intelligence was a unitary inherited attribute, that it was not subject to change over a lifetime, and that it could be measured and individuals could be ranked and assigned their place in society accordingly. The SAT evolved from these questionable assumptions about human talent and potential.

    More and more people are questioning the validity of SAT . In the past MENSA used to accept high SAT score individuals . For the past decade it has stopped accepting SAT scores .

    The whole exercise of deciding merit based on CAT scores discriminates against those from lower socio-economic status.

    Though many non-IIM institutes have started accepting CAT scores, the application fee of these institutes is still inexplicably high.

    The CAT is primarily an exam of Math and English. Logical and Analytical Reasoning is nearly absent (except for some verbal reasoning which again depends on knowing English well!!!!).

    CAT is a clever way to keep those from lower socio-economic strata away Institutes funded with tax payers money .

    So claims of “Merit” based on CAT scores is hollow and discriminatory against those of lower socio-economic strata.

    Dhirubhai Ambani had a poor command over English . He would not have made it through CAT. So what "merit" are we talking of?

  5. Hey Anonymous,

    So, what are you talking about here? Everybody knows that there are flaws in the system, but at the same time we have to follow the system right! That's what makes sense. The system is equal for all. If you need a global edge, one needs to know English. What is the advantage we have over countries competing with us? We have the advantage of English! Do you think we should be giving CAT exams in Hindi or Tamil or Telugu?

    According to you, people from the lower economic group are not performing well because they are not good in English. Do you think all the millionaires and billionaires are able to succeed in CAT? It is all the mental make up and depends on the calibre of the student. If a student is good, let him be rich or poor, let him be from the forward caste or the backward caste, he will do well!

    Why in the world should we consider the non-English speaking background class? Here, we are talking about Reservations based on merit not on caste or creed. A forward caste or a backward caste guy these days know good English and they have the advantage to compete in any exam.

    The management institutes have defined a pattern of exam. so be it! Let us all stick to the system and however good or bad try to clear the exams. One should not support the shallow approach of reservations to help less deserving candidates. Such people have no place to step into these great institutions and hamper the chances of the bright ones!

  6. Dear anonymous,

    Don't you feel ashamed to call people as 'low socio' strata? I see a trend that people take pride in being called "low caste".
    Do you think only the so called "low caste" people study in non english medium schools. Then, dude! time for you to wake up. You are far from reality. And reservations continuing any further will only null the effect it gained in the initial periods. It discourages reserved class from studying which ultimately pushes them down the ability ladder.
    Just because SAT is not efficient doesn't mean you should have reservation. Its like amputing the leg to treat a wounded finger. Treat the finger!
    Be farsighted. Time for all to compete each other and get better. Reserved class people will reach a saturation level for financial growth. To grow out of it there should be no barriers.

  7. @Praveen and anonymous
    My main point was that inherent aptitude/talent (INBORN MERIT) can't be tested. What gets tested in a test like the CAT or SAT or any test is the person's learning (ACQUIRED MERIT).

    I am not saying this learning(ACQUIRED MERIT) is a bad thing and those who possess it needs to penalized by denying them an opportunity for furthering their education .I am saying lets stop pretending that we are measuring inherit aptitude/talent(INBORN MERIT) in these entrance examinations .

    Once we accept that what we are measuring in CAT or the other entrance exams is something that has been learnt with effort often since childhood we also see that others who have not had the good fortune of such a childhood could also learn those very things if only with harder work in teens or adulthood . And a person who has learnt skills late in his life can be as competent as anyone. So some one with a lesser score in an Entrance exam like a quota student could even outdo over time someone who has scored more in the entrance . The hysterical sky- will-fall attitude if quota is increased in IIM puzzles me !!

    . In a rediff discussion titled "Why students must know English " Rashmi Bansal of IIM Ahmedabad ,popular blogger , editor of an English youth magazine says ,
    "All students must learn English because it is a vital skill in the New Economy"

    But even the Americans don't think its going to enough in the "new economy" .

    American President Bush thinks that learning Hindi and a few other foreign languages is a "critical need" for the US's national security and prosperity. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1362386.cms

    In this article http://www.cmomagazine.com/analyst/031805_csa.html
    That article quotes Former German chancellor Willy Brandt who said decades ago: "If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen" (or "Wenn ich zu Ihnen verkaufe, spreche ich Ihre Sprache. Wenn ich kaufe, then you must speak German"). People are much more likely to buy if they fully understand what it is you're trying to sell to them.

    All successful business, like politics, is local - or should appear that way to the buyer. The right language is the first step in becoming a local hero says the same article

    If knowledge of International language is the reason why CAT is held in English then there are other International languages which also have a claim to be in the question paper. See how knowing Chinese or Japanese or Italian or French or German would be to an Indian business man. Just look at the size of the world trade of the countries I have just named . And also see the growing importance of Asian countries .

    Lets raise the standard of the Entrance exam . Let do away with the English paper and bring in a multilingual language paper. Lets introduce other important foreign languages in the CAT examination . To gain a competitive edge it will introduce the genial joys of learning a foreign language to the members of the anglicized cosmopolitan community. Lets say the first ten most widely spoken language in the world be included as options in the entrance examination .

    Quite a few Indian languages will figure in the examination questions on the basis if the sheer number size of their speakers . ( Bengali follows Hindi in sheer numbers, its spoken in Bangladesh as well Bengal ) But lets consider all India state based languages equally . It will drastically cut down but not eliminate the importance of English . A person who knows more than one language will get rewarded.

    If the answers are standardized then correction could also be easier .

    It may also inspire our professors to learn newer international languages so that the immense research material in say Japanese management or French management becomes available to our budding management wizards . When our professors struggle with the Chinese script it will help them empathize with the struggle of a student who is struggling with English .

    Lets further raise the standards of the entrance examination !!!Along with Maths lets also have a paper on Humanities . After all 90% of a managers success depends on handling people. So instead of promoting anglicized number crunching geeks who are blind to local and global social realities lets promote a more socially aware manager . Most corporates nowadays have larger social aims in their mission statements . They will love students who are conscious of social realities within and without the country .Let there be a compulsory section on "Community", "social capital". You can't understand concepts of "Caste", "social justice" etc .

    It will bring down the ridiculous percentiles because the standards of the entrance would have gone up .

    What I have suggested is complicated and I am sure can be improved upon . But where there is a will for merit and fair play there will be a way for merit and fair play .

    Both can coexists . But then Innovation should not be just a management buzz word !!

  8. Hi Anonymous,

    What you talk may make a lot of sense if every one of us knew all the Indian languages and all the languages existing in this world. But that is not the case. We know only a specific set of languages and it is highly improbabilistic to learn new languages by the day and it is practically unfeasible. Even if that was possible, people will come with flaws with that too saying "Why are languages required for a management course?" People always find flaws with the system no matter whatever's done! What exactly do you mean by saying that the CAT level would go up by introducing humanities? The current system of CAT is highly competitive within the given boundaries. It is possible to judge a person only with the limited knowledge he has and through a common platform.

    I am not sure whether you can perceive an alternate course of action for the entrance exams. Don't you observe that there are a number of people from the rural areas who perform well in IITs and IIMs. In fact, the IIT toppers are mostly from the rural areas who slog it out to the top! Now what do you say about these people? It is not English which is the main thing, it is the way you apply ideas that is most decisive in any field of study!

    PS: By the way, would love to know with whom I am interacting. Send me a mail if you do not want to reveal your identity! praveen.gk@gmail.com

  9. @Praveen

    The importance of my earlier post goes beyond the caste reservation issue.

    English is NOT the language spoken and understood by majority of the population worldwide!!!!!!!

    The Summer Institute for Linguistics (SIL) Ethnologue Survey (1999) lists the following as the top languages by population:
    (number of native speakers in parentheses)

    Chinese (937,132,000)
    Spanish (332,000,000)
    English (322,000,000)
    Bengali (189,000,000)
    Hindi/Urdu (182,000,000)
    Arabic (174,950,000)
    Portuguese (170,000,000)
    Russian (170,000,000)
    Japanese (125,000,000)
    German (98,000,000)
    French (79,572,000)

    The following list is from Dr. Bernard Comrie’s article for the Encarta Encyclopedia (1998):
    (number of native speakers in parentheses)

    Mandarin Chinese (836 million)
    Hindi (333 million)
    Spanish (332 million)
    English (322 million)
    Bengali (189 million)
    Arabic (186 million)
    Russian (170 million)
    Portuguese (170 million)
    Japanese (125 million)
    German (98 million)
    French (72 million)

    How about being tested in these languages alongwith the Indian languages of each state ?.

    The IAS used to be conducted only in English.Today in the IAS examination there is no discrimination between candidates who answer in Hindi or English or other regional languages.

    The IIMs can learn something from how the IAS is conducted.

    Let our management graduates eye new markets which are big and getting bigger including local ones.

    Like I pointed out we have some serious competition from the no-nonsense Americans .They understand that one does not stay number one by being complacent .

  10. Wonder if many think of social realities in India and around the world .

    Let me type what I see .

    Man is a social animal . And he forms communities to work with , marry ,socialise .

    In the pre-agricultural economy of forest ,communities are tribes .

    In agricultural economies of village, communities are the traditional castes (like you see in India) . Relatively good conditions in agricuture through history made castes a widely practiced phenomenon in the subcontinent . Even religious conversion has failed to remove the caste system .Caste clearly follows a different dynamic which has nothing to do with religion .

    In industrial economies of city based, communities are a new “cosmopolitan caste”.

    These three kinds of economies 1) tribal ,2) village(traditional caste) and 3)city (cosmopolitan caste) have fashioned the modern nation as it exists today .Most modern nations are have come into existence during the Industrial revolution .

    Modern nations all over the world have had to grapple with the problem of how to assimilate those left behind in the forests and villages in pre-agricultural or agricultural economies . In India due to poor economy growth the problems are vastly more acute .

    We cannot wish away the existence of these pre-agricultural tribes or agricutural castes and exclude them from our industrial cosmopolitan caste.

    Forest covers are disappearing. The very habitat of the tribal in endangered .

    And its tough to compete with the developed countries Industrial technology based agriculture with India’s traditional pre-industrial agriculture . Take for example today 57 of the Indian population is engaged in non- machine aided agrarian activities, this translates into an Indian food worker producing enough food for himself and a surplus for another Indian.We are still importing food from time to time. Contrast this to US, where less than two percent of American population is engaged in machine aided agriculture or related activities. An American farmer produces enough food for 50 people including himself, with even more left over for export. Therefore the American farmer is very productive and very rich by comparison.

    Agriculture needs water. Water table is receding in India. Today 70 per cent of irrigation needs and 80 per cent of domestic water supplies in India are met through pumping up groundwater through tube wells. But this massively deployed private response to public failure can only be temporary. Water tables are plummeting and aquifers are running dry. Estimates show that 15 per cent of aquifers are already critical and the number is projected to rise to 60 per cent in just twenty years .
    For more read http://www.rediff.com/news/1998/apr/28water.htm

    With each passing generation inherits ,the share of the agricultural land of each subsequent generation becomes less and less . When each person has a very small plot of land you cannot have advantages of scale .

    Traditional means of incomes are drying up in forests and villages .

    Farmers have been commiting suicide .

    Naxalites philosophies are attracting a greater following in some jungles.

    SITUATION IS GRIM. There remains a large part of the population simply unequipped with skill set required to compete in the industrial/service world .


    Castes are a form of social stratification from the agriculture economy era . Some castes have been able to make the shift to industrial economy to become a member of the new cosmopolitan caste to a greater extent than others .

    Castes in India are endogamous . Majority of indians still marry within their castes .The sense of traditional caste is weak for the new cosmopolitan castes in urban Indians as they work in industries in these cities .In their case a more cosmopolitan anglacised sense of community has replaced the pre-industrial traditional caste system. This is simply the industrial version of the traditional caste system .Members of this new cosmopolitan caste also practice endogamy . They marry their own kind . And prefer to work ,live and socialise with their own kind . It is an unacknowledged caste in the sense they see themselves above the caste system . “Caste no bar” if you belong to this cosmopolitan caste . Looking through the matrimonial advertisements in news papers or surf through matrimonial sites on the web . You will see right away that those who consider themselves diehard cosmopolitan is miniscule .Most people still retain that weak link to the traditional caste system when it comes to important decisions like marriage .

    What needs to be kept in mind that people prefer to work with their own castes . For example for his medical needs someone from the cosmopolitan caste is not likely to see a general practioner who has poor english skills. In the same way someone who is a say from a tribal village is unlikely to be comfortable with a general practioner who is a english speaking westernised dandy. Where possible people go to physicians who they consider as one of their own, some one who speak their language and understand their lifestyle .

    You see this same division in private sector as well. If you are corporate entity and your company has predominantly members from the Cosmopolitan caste you are likely to reject someone who does not seem to reflect your cosmopolitan culture,especially for the important high profile,high visibilty appointments . Companies call this “cultural fit”.

    Will Azimbhai Premji announce that the next owner of Wipro will not be his son? Will he make that decision on merit ? Why did Ratan Tata succeed Bharat Ratna JRD Tata ? Was he the most accomplished person in the Tata empire ? So you see the cosmopolitan caste reserves the topmost creamy posts to one of their own in a very similar way like the traditional caste system .These posts are very much “Reserved” . If the english speaking members of the cosmopolitan caste fails entrance exams , group discussion, interviews all of which are often conducted in English , then there are always management quotas ,governing body quotas ,NRI quotas ,paid seats within India or paid seats abroad all of which can be accessed with money or influence .

    Owners or management recruiters from each caste almost always recruit people from their own castes .Some one of their own kind . If you do not have enough members of your own caste as recruiters whether it is government or private jobs the entry points into the industrial economy drastically come down. Each caste has its ‘Creamy’ layer .Some castes have very thick layers of cream . Some castes have a thinner layer compared to their size. Thick or thin this creamy layer is its entry point into the industrial world .

    This problem is by no means peculiar to India .What is different is the sheer magnitude of the problem .

    Governments all over the world use “affirmative action” to remedy this serious problem.

    Reservations and quotas are a form of Affirmative action.

    What is affirmative action ?
    Affirmative action is a policy or a program aimed at increasing the representation of members of groups that have traditionally been discriminated against. This typically focuses on education,employment, government contracts ,health care or social welfare.

    Just look at how it is practiced in the following countries :

    American President Lyndon Johnson said "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line in a race and then say, 'you are free to compete with all the others', and still justly believe that you have been completely fair."

    In USA : American President Lyndon Johnson brought in affirmative action by an “excecutive order” . The order aims "to correct the effects of past and present discrimination".

    The order specifically requires certain organizations accepting federal funds to take affirmative action to increase employment of members of preferred racial or ethnic groups and women. Any organization with fifty or more employees and an aggregate revenue exceeding $50,000 from a single federal contract during a twelve month period must have a written affirmative action plan. This plan must include goals and timetables for achieving full utilization of women and members of racial minorities, in quotas based on an analysis of the current workforce compared to the availability in the general labor pool of women and members of racial minorities.

    Regarding Native Americans there are today more than 563 federally recognized tribal governments in the United States. The United States recognizes the right of these tribes to self-government and supports their tribal sovereignty and self-determination. These tribes possess the right to form their own government, to enforce laws (both civil and criminal), to tax, to establish membership, to license and regulate activities, to zone and to exclude persons from tribal territories. The recognition confers benefits, including the right to label arts and crafts as Native American and they can apply for grants that are specifically reserved for Native Americans.

    In Japan : there is an informal policy to provide employment and long term welfare (which is usually not available to general public) to Burakumin (untouchables).

    In Brazil :Brazilian Universities (State or Federal) have created systems of preferred admissions (quotas) for racial minorities (blacks and native Brazilians), the poor and the handicapped. There are also quotas for the disabled in the civil public services.

    In Malaysia :there are laws called bumiputra laws which are a form of affirmative action meant to provide more opportunity for the majority ethnic Malay population versus the historical financial dominance of the Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indian populations.

    In New Zealand :individuals of Maori or other Polynesian descent are often afforded preferential access to university courses, and scholarships.

    In South Africa : there is a the Employment Equity Act aims to promote and achieve equity in the workplace, by encouraging equal opportunity amongst all workers. It includes efforts to identify reasons for inequalities and change the employment rates of previously underrepresented groups for a more equitable job market.

    In UK: according to the Good Friday Agreement the law requires that the Police Service of Northern Ireland recruit equal numbers of Catholics and non Catholics.

    In Indonesia: affirmative action programs give natives preference over Han Chinese who have immigrated into the country.

    In Macedonia :minorities, most notably Albanians, are allocated quotas for access to state universities, as well as in civil public services.

    In China : there is a quota for minority representatives in the National Assembly in Beijing, as well as other realms of government.

    In the European Union: there is an antiracism directive which concerns the application of the principle of equality without regard to race or ethnic origin. This anti-racism directive, is to be implemented in national law of the member states.

    In Germany :there are programs stating that if men and women had equal qualifications, women had to be preferred for a job. The anti-discrimination law which is yet to pass, aims at improving the protection of minorities.

    Belgium government :proposed in January 2006 a measure that will make some job opportunities available exclusively to immigrants, disabled and elderly people.

    Much of the developed world does believe that social justice can be done by reservation/quotas for those that are discriminated against.

    Dalit issues of India have already been linked with human rights issue in International forum like the UN .

    To repeat what past American President Lyndon Johnson said "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line in a race and then say, 'you are free to compete with all the others', and still justly believe that you have been completely fair."

  11. Hi,

    You seem to be doing quite a lot of research on this though I have totally a different viewpoint!!!

  12. That was very well expressed.. Especially the cricket with reservations was particularly amusing..
    But most of us choose to be spectators and commentators as the corrupt political side is a finicky one..
    'When the wise men move away the evil dominates' goes the saying...