On CAT, Reservations and Employability

Since we're in the mood, we're going to dissect this brilliant comment that an anonymous poster left on the 'reservations about reservations about...' post:

1. Firstly, the person suggested that we should investigate the term 'merit'.

Here goes: Merit is determined on whether a student has achieved a certain minimum level of results, dependent on certain criterion. If the IIT's and IIM's have their own set of criterion, then merit for them is determined according to that. Age isn't a factor in merit, but might be an important determinant in 'employability'.

2.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 .

Now, the CAT exam is based on SAT, it isn't the same as SAT. Also, Blacks and Hispanics aren't the same as our OBC, MBC and SC/ST friends. False generalisation.

3. It was suggested that CAT is discriminatory because the CAT is in English, and has comprehension passages and that knowing that language does not mean you lack the capacity to clear that exam.

This can be attributed to employability, which I'll discuss later in the post.

4. There is no test on earth which can reliably tests aptitude .

That, I agree with.

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

So have the politicians asked the tax payers whether they would like reservations on the basis of merit or castes? They'll get an answer, anyway, in the next election, lest the BJP continues with the infighting, and not provide a stable alternative.

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

Rationality? Ambani may have not had an adequate command over English, but he was at once a risk taker, determined, a little headstrong, a street smart strategist and a rational businessman. Now can you tell me which exam can help determine this, in full earnest? There may have been companies who might have refused him employment as well, but that was their loss, not his.

Now on Employability:

Firstly, I'd like to categorically state that I believe that the CAT exam, as with several other entrance exams, are actually for the purpose of elimination, not selection. The post-exam procedures of the GD and PI are modes of selection. Both procedures are necessary, and both are not expendable. At the end of the day, they both help select students that the university in question feels are employable or can be made employable, and therein lies the subjectivity. Undoubtedly, the system can be tweaked, but if with the procedure in place, they're getting students who are employable, they might not feel that there is a need to tinker with it.

At the end of the day, if you don't meet the cut, it's your problem. If the government isn't providing people with an education that gears them up for working life, or for even tackling selection procedures, this is clearly no reason to pass the buck.

Let's just take a situation where the norms are relaxed: over a period of time you will find that corporates will begin to consider private colleges, and students will attempt to opt for those as well. They will up their selection criterion, and their equity will rise in the market. At the end of the day, the students of the government funded institutions will lose out, albeit not immediately, because the corporates look at employability of the human resources that they're hiring. Our pre-post grad (school, highschool and even college) system is so archaic (and often so behind the times) that it serves no obvious practical purpose. I mean - it takes a minimum of 21 years before a student gets a taste of post-grad. If Post Grad has become a norm, its only because post grads are considered more employable than undergrads, and that's only because of the education system. I think you should be looking at a complete revamp of the curriculum every five years, though one that isn't based on rewriting history.

Which is why English is important - it is the most widely spoken language in the world, and over time it'll be the one language that unites this country. If I'm hiring, I'd rather have a person who can communicate with people across the country - I don't want to hire a punjabi whose language cannot be understood by my vendor or client in Chennai or Bengal. I think division on the basis of language was the greatest disservice done to the people by the first government, further entrenching differences.

Anyway, still on reservations, I suggest that you guys take a look at the social revolution in Britain post WW-II, after Labour took power. As a Tory leader, Alfred Balfour rightly put it then: "social legislation is not merely to be distinguished from Socialist legislation but it is its most direct opposite and its most effective antidote." In other words, expect social retribution to increase and divides to widen. English society divided on the basis of class in a manner similar to our caste and class divisions, and they have managed to iron out those differences by switching to a meritocratic system.

Post Script: Looks like I got carried away while writing this, and took a few tangential turns. Well, that's what blogs are for. O-)

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Anonymous Harish said...

The reservation is solely for the gross injustice that was caused for centuries by people of the "upper" caste by denying these people education. If we have a way of restoring the balance than so be it! Let's not make a seemless issue out of this. Let me also add that I don't support the 50% imposition but if a guy of a lower social and economic stature has the same merits as his "upper" caste counterpart , he should be preferred! Do not be so ignorant of the issue, its probably not a complete social solution but then nothing is entirely perfect now is it?!

April 28, 2006 9:37 AM  
Blogger Nikhil Pahwa said...

Harish, I have voiced my reasons on this blog (and my old one) for opposing reservations in any field, at any percentage. I would prefer a survival of the fittest melee, because I feel that that'll impact productivity and the benefits, by means of taxation, should filter down to the underpriviledged, if the government isn't so busy squandering taxpayers money. Also, reservations are a form of discrimination against the general category students, and two wrongs don't make a right.

The government is trying to make up for its own lapses because it has been unable to provide quality education and help the underpriviledged compete. They're unwilling to deploy adequate resources and it took an impending default on current account payments for them to get out of the socialist phase.

As for my being ignorant - You're right. I'm ignorant and need an education. Please help me by defining 'seemless'.

Sort out your reasoning issues before supporting an obviously degenerative move and telling me I'm ignorant and should pay for the fuck ups that other people did for centuries. You'll trip if you try walking straight while looking behind you.

April 28, 2006 11:41 AM  
Anonymous harish said...

keep in mind these people have been exploited for generations and they are not just the socially opressed but they are the economically backward too.
Lemme explain this to you in simple terms. I take a swift kick at you, where it hurts the most prob the crotch for no fault of yours and then publicly challenge you to a fight in all fairness calling it "the survival of the fittest".
It would be much nicer if I'd let you blink and have a glass of water(or prob taste that red-bull that i've been having) before we square of...wouldn;t it?
Besides I mentioned clearly that I don't support the govt's dastardly act of imposing 50% reservation.(Read my prev comment )

"Seemless" was a misspelt seamless and it was to imply how "conveniently" or "coherently" you have made your points to "suit" your arguement. Do i need to explain the above three words in quotes as well or would your "education" do the job this time?(Spare correcting my spellings!)

May 02, 2006 11:06 AM  
Blogger Nikhil Pahwa said...


Are you trying to tell me that there are no SC/ST/OBC/MBC candidates who are not socially or economically backward? I have known several people who have belonged to these categories, and have been well off. I have also been told of situations where there are SC/ST candidates who have had the money and the coaching to get into decent engineering colleges have still misued their SC/ST background to get into still better colleges because they had the opportunity. I would have done it too, if I was in their place, so I don't grudge them this. But it's clearly not a case of equal opportunity.

It is the governments job to provide them with an education that is on par with the market standards. The taxpayers are paying for that. Instead, that same money is being used by the politicians for lining their own pockets. They're not doing their job, and instead are searching for a fall guy in the general category. In a recent survey, KV's were ranked very high in terms of brand equity; the KV's in the metro's are relatively good schools, and it's the rest that are not up to the mark. Should the general category students pay for the governments failure?

So as the government - you're not providing them an adequate primary or secondary education. So you reserve seats for them in graduation, where they really don't have the base and aren't given additional teaching assistance to be brought up to speed. Then because they wouldn't qualify for post graduation, you reserve a seat for them there, and finally you reserve a government job for them? And because the private sector is generating more jobs, is more efficient and is able to pay better salaries than the government, then you leech the private sector and reserve jobs for them there. So in the name of uplifting the backward castes, you're actualy maiming your cash-cow. The only ones who really benefit are the reserved category students who have had the money for a quality primary and secondary education from a private school.

On principle, each citizen of this country should be treated as equal under law. Granting someone special status doesn't make them equal, it makes them special.

To use your own example, what you are suggesting is that instead of me getting treated until I am in a condition wherein I can compete, you allow me to kick you in the balls so that both of us are in equal pain? The quality of the fight reduces.

Also, my points will always be made in a manner so as to suit my arguments. You shouldn't expect it otherwise: that is how arguments are made when issues are being debated. And I have, either here or in previous posts, given ample space to the flip side as well. My opinions are thought out and reasoned, and if you give me a logical reasoning that contradicts mine, but is logical enough - I'm quite open to a change of stance. So far, nothing you've said has been convincing. I'm a libertarian, but more of a purist.

Also, even if you use the word 'seamless' in that statement- it doesn't fit; doesn't even fit the meaning that you have implied in your second comment. Here. My education does the job quite well, thank you.

May 02, 2006 12:44 PM  

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