Friday, May 31, 2013

Board exams and ranks and admissions and insanity

When I read news items like the following Lack of uniformity raises questions, I am reminded of the  wonderful definition of Insanity:
Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.
It puzzles me how anyone can create a system where you mix a common exam with a local exam and expect the result to be uniform. This is a process begging to be 'gamed'! The system so obviously lacks transparency and accountability. However, perfect 10's create pages and pages of news.

It had bugged me when I started teaching when this gaming of the system was used as a justification for the impossibility of internal evaluation to be fair. Even if there is a reluctance to move entirely to an internal system, where the degree explicitly mentions the name of the institute, even the alternate option of reporting two separate marks was never even considered.

Companies face the same concerns with ranking of employees. A common solution is to force each division/department to rank employees based on a common quota. This is certainly not a practice without criticism. If even a comparatively homogeneous group like the Microsoft cannot have an unambiguous best practice for ranking, a school board should not even attempt it.

Let each school rank its own students. Let each recruiting institution weigh the comparative ranks of students across schools. Most importantly, let each institution have its own measure for deciding whom to recruit/admit.

How many universities in India would have the freedom to admit someone like Rahul Gandhi or Ratan Tata without a suitable rank on some uniform list? It would be regarded as unfair. Whereas an institution with even minimal flexibility would jump at the opportunity of having a powerful alumnus and, even more important, providing networking opportunities to its students.

Lets face it. Admission of the best students would not create the best institution. To keep believing it is another symptom of insanity.

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