Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Debate rages over benefit of quotas

Read this article from NDTV. That is why I say "Provide scholarships to the needy not reservation". Even if an SC/ST/OBC gets an admission in a good college due to reservation, he may not have the money to pay the fees.

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Anonymous said...

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?

Turbo said...

The post looks like comment and the comment appears to be the post.
Hmmm... Dude I agree English is a major part of CAT and other such entrance examinations ... But then, English is the international language. You can't expect the exams to be conducted in each and every language thats spoken in India/World. So in that case you have to choose a language and I must say you will agree with me that there is no other language than English that can be choosen for everyone. In fact, taking the case of India, its better to choose English over Hindi. Because English is not the mother tongue of any Indian whereas choosing Hindi may give an advantage to the Hindi speakers. And when it comes to some international exam, I guess English is the only language that is spoken in most of the countries. You can argue that Chinese or Hindi is spoken by most people in the world. But you know that English is now widespread ... you can't expect US/UK people to learn Chinese/Hindi. This will be something like forcing a language onto them. In my opinion, the language thats spoken in most countries will have higher acceptance among all people than the language thats spoken in a country with very large population.
Now, your second point, that SAT/CAT are not reliable methods for gauging a person's scholastic aptitude. Yes, you are right. But you yourself have also said that no such method exists and will exist as the word "aptitude" only is so difficult to define, comprehend, etc. So, in that case do u expect institutes to give admissions randomly without any tests? Obviously No. You got to have some way or the other to test. Dhirubhai Ambani might not have qualified CAT. There are plenty of other successfull managers who might not have qualified. And all were diffrent. I mean you can't devise a test in which all the successful managers would score better and others would score lower. Tests HAVE TO BE based on some heuristics.
Now, your third point that students who studied in non-english schools are at a disadvantage. Yes, I agree with you. English is now a widely accepted language. So it should be made compulsary in every school. But our politicians in India keep mother languages in the state boards to show their patriotism towards their state. I think the only answer to your point is to make English as the teaching language.
And finally I do recognise that backward castes students fare badly in these exams. But thats because there are very less backward students who have had *nice* education at the school level. So my point is to improve the schooling system. Help economic weaker students with scholarships, etc. Reservation is not the solution. It will only increase the enemity between students of various castes and societies. For more read my previos post.

Anonymous said...

My main point in the earlier post 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 poor score in an Entrance exam can acquire sufficient merit like any one else.

Rashmi Bansal of IIM Ahmedabad ,popular blogger , editor of an English youth magazine says in this article

“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.,00050001.htm
In this article
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 .

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 .
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” without studying these terms .

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 .

What has been done in IAS examinations can be done in IIM.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.

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

Sankalp said...

Why is Mr.Anon going on and on about English and quoting figures from surveys?

Lets look at it this way:

Chinese is the most spoken because of the sheer population of China. In how many places outside China is their language understood? How many Chinese companies are employing Indians? Even if they are, how many Indians want to go and work in a place with such restricted freedom and such cultural disparity?

Spanish is sure spoken in many countries, but most of these countires aren't places where jobs fit for management grads are being generated.

How do you expect people to learn global languages in India? There are institutes for foreign languages, but won't that make it more difficult for economically backward candidates?

Knowing regional languages of India is also not the solution.

Basically, once you start working in some place, (be it Agartala or Nairobi), then learning the language of that placebecomes necessary and advantageous.

But just testing for proficiency in some random languages like Arabic, Portuguese etc. is even worse.

Being good at communication and comprehension in English is necessary because most of the books and academic literature is available in English.
I don't know about any French/Japanese/Chinese greats in Management whose valuable ideas we'll miss by not knowing their language.
Anyway, won't it be easier to get their ideas translated into English than forcing people to learn French/Japanese/Chinese?

Also, English can be learnt in India from a very early stage (unlike Mandarin or Spanish).

Knowing too many languages is not really an advantage if you are not using them in your work.

According to the way Mr.Anon puts it, not knowing English is a sign of backwardness and belonging to a lower socio-economic strata. I think this idea is very ridiculous.

English is not so difficult to learn with numerous cheap sources of familiarising with the language available, English newspapers or TV for example.

And why are we on focussing on management? Engg, medical and every other field will be hit by this stupid idea of even more stupid Mr.Arjun Singh.

Basically, to earn a seat/job at any place, you should prove it that you deserve it, no reservations, no quotas. The selection system can't be perfect, but it is not completely flawed.

Also, reservations based on some caste criteria are useless. When the real problem is economic backwardness, let that be the criteria to get a reserved seat. If you are from a backward caste with a decent economic background and you are still craving for a reserved seat, then I don't have a term derogatory enough to describe your lowliness.

Though I think the comments have gone far from what the post was pointing to, I think the idea of scholarships will also be useless if the criteria is not changed to economic status instead of the candidate's caste.

Anonymous said...

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) . Perfect 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

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 population simply unequipped with skill set required to compete in the industrial/service world . We have a tragedy of enormous proportions staring in our face .

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."