The Fallacy of Meritocracy and College Admissions solely based on National Level Tests
Opinion

The Fallacy of Meritocracy and College Admissions solely based on National Level Tests

College is supposed to be the time in student’s life where they excel into their desired field of interest and become well rounded professional individuals. Developing holistically and balancing the academics and extra-curriculars to becoming a well earning professional is a dream that everyone harbours with the thought of college admissions. You might as well call this the BIG INDIAN DREAM.

However, not everyone can make the cut. Some are left behind in the rat race of cramming information or solving nerve-wracking multiple-choice questions to get into the most prestigious institutions in the country. The reason for not making the cut is not lack of intelligence or incapacitated pupils but the sheer fallacious nature of the education system in India.

The sad part is that pupils are coaxed into following the same paved out shortest method like sheep in a herd to arrive at the answer to the MCQs in these tests. This multimillion-dollar industry hacks their limbs leaving them without a choice but to succumb to the sheep mentality since each mark and each second in the exam hour counts, lose one mark or falter for a second and your rank can drop by thousands or even worse lakhs.

Undergraduate admissions and even Postgraduate admissions to the most elite and prestigious institutions in the country especially the government institutions are solely based on the results of the National level tests conducted. This kind of admission system is fundamentally flawed as considering only the test scores of an individual as a criterion to be granted admission overlooks the other aspects like extra-curricular, achievements and personality. Ideally, the latter should have been given more importance during the time of admissions but Alas!

In India, the number of seats at the most prestigious institutions is negligible compared to the student population that takes these national-level tests aiming for that university seat. This is where the middle man plays its role in the garb “coaching institutions”. Personally, I was a victim of this capitalist model of “pseudo better education” two whole frustrating years. These institutions are nothing but revenue-generating bureaus that feed off the knackered nature of the Indian education system.

These institutions consider students as a cash cow and not intellectual individuals with the capability of innovative thinking. They train you to crack the entrances by making you fit into boxes that limit the scope of thinking but promote following a dictated path. The methodology that takes the shortest amount of time arriving at the answer to the multiple-choice question is taught and forced into the brains of the students. This hampers the ability for a student to think of any alternative path that in fact might have been better.

We can describe this by using game theory,

Consider the methodologies followed by students to arrive at an answer as the strategies followed by a set of two students. Now consider the occurrence of dominance: this means one strategy will dominate the others for a set of own reasons. In this case, the strategy that is taught to the students that takes the least amount of time at the derivation of the answer to a problem will be upheld and considered as the best.

By adopting this methodology it does no good but only bad to the learning student. It is the process of systematically causing erasure of the possibility of independent thinking. And this doesn’t even stop here, the coaching centres resort to segregation of the enrolled students based on the marks obtained in the internal tests conducted by these institutions. The students are made to believe in the Darwinian theory of the survival of the fittest considering them as test subjects of that experiment. The more you score the better attention you are given and treated as a poster child of the success whereas the less you score the more sly remarks of being a failure or a disappointment are thrown at your away; there is no middle ground.

Some of these coaching institutions tend to be residential adding to isolation of the students because there is less contact with their parental units. This also increases the possibility of them spiralling into depression and anxiety due to the heavy burden of outperforming their peers and their selves. There is no surveillance about the mental health of the students in these institutes and it is the last on the list of priorities to be taken care of. Kota in India, in fact, was termed as the suicide capital of India because of the vast number of student deaths by suicide caused by the heavy burden of academic stress.

Why is there so much stress associated with a single entrance exam you ask?

Because of the root problem of considering the admission process into the top institutions like the IITs, AIIMS, IIMs, IISERs, etc. solely based on entrance exam scores. It is a total farce because only a subset of knowledge that the student possesses is evaluated by these tests. Out of the various types of knowledge, these tests focus on evaluating the factual and conceptual knowledge of the student completely excluding the metacognitivethinking or the knowledge of thinking in general and procedural knowledge how to do something.

Also among the various spheres of thinking processes creation, analysis and evaluation display a lack or no inclusivity at all in the admissions process.

The real deal is the kind of student psychology that this kind of approach constructs, it destroys and goes against the very fundamental basis of learning and education. On one hand they are brainwashed into believing that education and learning is very integral for securing a better future for themselves, marks are futile and how they don’t matter in the long run however, on the other hand, they are coaxed into believing that cracking the national level entrance tests is a do or die kind of a situation and failing at it implies their failure at life; making the students feel incapacitated or dull.

If we try to analyse the question:

Do national-level entrance tests help in assessing a certain level and certain spheres of the intellectual capacity of a student?

Yes, certainly but should they be considered as the holy grail of admissions, no.

In my opinion, Admissions should not be exclusive of the student’s persona but be inclusive about all the aspects of the prospective student, this can be done by imbibing the use of college application essays and interview processes to better assess the students and their capabilities. This will not only help the more deserving students to get admitted but also rebuild the student psyche towards the entire admissions process.

It will help in deconstructing the institutions that levy sole focus on the tests scores and lay out the basis for the reconstruction of an education system and admissions process that will be more inclusive of the students’ all-round development, Thus giving rise to a student population that is well rounded and not a product of the capitalist nature of the education system.

(The views expressed above are the author’s own. Newsd neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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