The concept of learning took a beating under the Dravidian rule. Rote learning became the norm. In the name of social justice, all out efforts were made to make the school syllabus as ridiculous as possible. If there was ever a ‘tough’ question in the exam- meaning ‘not from the book but slightly twisted to test the out-of-the-box thinking of the students- the authorities intervened and provided grace marks for the question so as to show a pre-agreed pass percentage. This ensured that none had to think to learn.
MGR, one of matinee idols who turned chief minister, brought in the ‘matriculation’ system – euphemism for english medium schools. With the craze for an énglish medium’running high in the state, many entrepreneurs lapped up the opportunity and shifted from, say, prawn fishing to matriculation school business. Anyone who had money and could afford a school building, however ramshackle that be, was given a licence to run a school. Government run schools began to lose lustre while petty entrepreneurs made the most of this money making system.
MGR didn’t stop with schools. He opened the flood gates for higher education too, by lowering the bar on the norms to be met to open private engineering colleges. Result: Arrack shop owners became Vice Chancellors for ‘self-financing’ engineering colleges. Today every former history sheeter has an engineering college of his own while some have private universities too. Every religious Mutt worth its name, started a college with the surplus cash and, in the process, minted more money. Not wanting to be left behing, every movie star founded a college. Education suffered in the process.
In the name of ‘çampus interview’ – process by which private companies visit the campuses to select personnel for their businesses- deliberate mockery of ‘talent selection’ was made. Many of those who were selected soon were asked to quit from the companies due to reasons of non-performance.
This lopsided and skewed focus on éngineering’ education has produced its own problems. There is an over-supply while demand has not increased due to shrinking global demand. The quality of the ‘supply’ – lesser said the better.
In the name of ‘social justice’, the regular entrance exam to the professional courses was done away with, the ostensible reason being children from rural schools were at a disadvantage when it came to competing in the exams. With the demise of the entry test, the marks obtained in the higher secondary exams were taken as the qualifying criteria for entry into the engineering and medial colleges.
Thus rote learners gained entry into premier government run professional colleges. But the professional stream was run, thankfully, according to the AICTE norms ( All India Council for Technical Education) and hence the syllabus was at par with the central government run colleges ( except the IITs). The rote learners struggled to complete the courses. When the pass percentages turned abysmal, the private colleges in the lot turned to illegitimate means to boost their pass percentage.
Result: The current status of over supply of under skilled engineering graduates.
To rectify this anomaly in TN and other states such as Karnataka, the central government had come up with a standardized entry level testing scheme called NEET. While every state has acquiesced to this new pattern of one all India entrance exam, Tamil Nadu has scored the distinction of being the only state that has repeatedly sought an exemption from this centrally administered exam.
What a fall !