Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik. Photograph: Twitter/@Naveen_Odisha.
Final week the Odisha authorities handed a decision within the state meeting to order 15% of seats in favour of scholars from authorities excessive faculties for admission to state-run medical and engineering faculties. As Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik mentioned whereas shifting the decision, this transfer is predicated on authorities college college students missing “bodily and financial entry” to teaching amenities, ensuing of their poor illustration in MBBS and engineering programs.
The Odisha authorities might have identified the issue proper however its medication is mistaken.
The decision was moved after accepting the suggestions of a committee arrange in January this yr, headed by Justice A.Okay. Mishra, a retired choose of the Orissa excessive courtroom. One suggestion was for the 15% reservation to be “horizontal” in nature – i.e. not over and above present reservations however to be utilized via the present “vertical” caste-based reservations.
Nevertheless, the committee seems to have based mostly its suggestions on insufficient information. Its report says that it couldn’t receive information from the Nationwide Testing Company pertaining to college students who had graduated from class X in authorities faculties. It additionally couldn’t get its arms on information, from the related departmental authorities, of the variety of college students who had cleared the IITs’ Joint Entrance Examinations and the Nationwide Eligibility cum Entrance Take a look at (NEET) after passing out from personal and public faculties.
So the committee as a substitute used highschool information from the mass training ministry, scholar information from government-run engineering and medical faculties, and CBSE and ICSE information as proxies.
The committee additionally appears to have cherry-picked from the information. Some 87% of all college college students in Odisha are enrolled in authorities faculties however go on to take solely 23% of seats in authorities medical faculties and 21% of seats in authorities engineering faculties. Personal college college students, however, make up solely 11% of all college college students however seize 57% of seats in medical faculties and 63% of seats in engineering faculties.
The remaining 20% of seats in authorities medical faculties are taken up by Central and state-government run CBSE faculties, the place 2% of the state’s college college students are enrolled. This ultimate level runs opposite to the committee’s inference that the graduates of state-run faculties are poorly represented at authorities medical faculties, even when the narrative is flipped at engineering faculties.
A reservation coverage that arises from this basis can’t clear up the disproportionate illustration drawback as a result of it’s too broad. For instance, a authorities college scholar in Cuttack or Bhubaneswar will nonetheless proceed to have entry to raised teaching amenities versus her counterparts in Kalahandi and Sonepur, and can nonetheless have a greater shot at being admitted to a authorities medical or engineering school underneath the brand new reservation scheme.
Except for this foreseeable unintended consequence, this reservation coverage may even be disadvantageous to college students from economically weaker sections of society who’ve enrolled in personal faculties underneath the Proper to Training (RTE) scheme. Presently, 25% of seats at personal faculties are reserved underneath the RTE, of which 10% are for SC/ST and SEBC classes.
In accordance with the Unified District Info System for Training portal, there have been 10,019 excessive faculties in Odisha in 2019. Of those, 5,296 have been government-run, 3,321 have been government-aided, 1,080 have been personal, and 322 have been Central and state authorities managed.
And in line with the 2018 Annual Standing of Training Report (ASER) report, which coated 30 districts of Odisha, there’s a stark distinction between authorities and personal faculties. Solely 35% of scholars in school III in authorities faculties have been capable of learn class II degree texts, in comparison with 64.5% in personal faculties. Equally, 23.8% of scholars of sophistication V in authorities faculties may efficiently clear up an arithmetic drawback meant for sophistication II college students, in comparison with 43.2% in personal faculties.
In a examine published in November 2019, researchers examined the feasibility of educating science at 300 excessive faculties in west Odisha. They reported that solely 32.2% faculties had science halls and that 34% of them have been non-functional. Science textbooks have been both unavailable to college students firstly of an educational session, carried solely black and white diagrams, and have been typically unclear.
So it’s not shocking that personal college enrolment grew 17% between 2015 and 2018. (Authorities faculties enrolled fewer college students in the identical interval however this shrinkage additionally accounts for mergers of faculties, which is fascinating.)
A protracted haul
It’s necessary to grasp and reply to those deeper points as a substitute of rolling out populist measures. The Structure of India consists of medical training in its seventh schedule, so its administration should think about each state and Centre powers and insurance policies. Earlier this yr, in a reply to the Madras excessive courtroom, which was contemplating a problem to the 7.5% reservation for presidency college college students in medical school seats, the Centre mentioned it didn’t deem reservation for presidency college college students to be fascinating.
Reservation for marginalised sections of society – which have lived via a protracted historical past of oppression, discrimination and denial of alternatives – is fascinating in India. Nevertheless, poorly functioning authorities faculties signify an issue of the federal government’s making, and as such shouldn’t develop into the bottom for brand spanking new reservation insurance policies in greater training.
As an alternative, the coverage ought to deal with enabling college students and their households to entry and retain a good-quality training. The Odisha authorities has already proven some good intent on this path, for instance by establishing the ‘Adarsha Vidyalayas’ that impart English-medium classes in semi-urban and rural areas.
If this coverage is applied as-is, we are going to want extra granular information to guage its penalties – each supposed and unintended.
Sambit Dash teaches in Melaka Manipal Medical Faculty, Manipal Academy of Greater Training (MAHE), Manipal. He feedback on public coverage, healthcare, science and problems with social curiosity. He tweets at @sambit_dash.