Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Questions and answers

Okay, one last post on this whole reservation issue and then tomorrow I swear I'm going back to fiction.

I continue to be dismayed by the (let's see, how shall I put this politely) obtuseness of arguments being made for IIT / IIM reservations. When I first posted about the issue on Sunday, I chose to go with a rant because enumerating the (to me) obvious reasons why the policy made no sense seemed redundant, and I was pretty clear that there was no reasonable justification to be given for so ludicrous a policy. Nothing I've read on the blogosphere in the last three days has changed my opinion on that, though in retrospect I realise that just because there's no argument to be made doesn't mean that people won't try to make it.

While there are plenty of inconsistencies and flaws in the arguments being made for reservations (most of them enumerated in dhoomk2's post here), the big problem is that almost all of these arguments are trying to argue the inequality is a problem and something needs to be done about it (which no one's really disputing) without really coming up with a coherent reason why IIT / IIM reservations are the way to go. That's like saying No, I don't have the wrong key, because look, the door is real. The issue here is not whether affirmative action should be taken to help the BCs at all, the issue here is whether introducing reservations in institutions of higher learning is the most a) effective (meaning will it really make a difference to those who are truly deprived) and b) efficient (meaning will the benefits from it justify the costs) of going about this. I'm yet to see anyone make a case for why reservations in IIT / IIMs are, specifically, the right way to go about addressing the problem.

You could argue, of course, that it's always worthwhile to do something - that any effort, however misconceived, to address inequality is a positive thing. That it's the thought that counts (see Amit's post here - which I entirely agree with). That's simply not true. That's like saying you should get points for answering a question in an exam even if you got it completely wrong. Public policy is not a buzzer quiz - policy actions like the reservations in the IITs / IIMs have real costs, so that decisions on them should be made after careful deliberation, based on hard evidence and after due consideration of all the alternatives. That's especially true if, as I argued in my last post, letting the government put the wrong policy in place means that they are under much less pressure to come up with the right one. Jumping to questionable conclusions based on no data and little logic will make things worse, not better.

A good way to think about this, I find, is what I call the "what you need to believe" test. Take the "why should we assume that people who get in under quotas will be poor students" argument. Let's try and imagine a scenario where that's not true, and where given that that's not true, reservations are the answer. Here's what you need to believe:

a) First, that on a systematic basis, the IITs and IIMs are not accepting candidates who would do as well or better than the students they currently take. Notice we're not talking hypothetical candidates who could have come up if primary school systems had been better - we're talking candidates who could join the institutes today and do as well if not better. This is not a marginal error, either, a full 50% of current students could be replaced without any drop (and a possible rise) in quality.

b) That these errors are strongly correlated with caste / backward class status - so that we don't need to understand what it is about the admission process that might be causing this error, what elements we might not be testing appropriately - all we need to do is let in 50% of candidates (selected, presumably, by the same process as the current batch, except with an additional constraint of being from a BC) and the error we've been making so far will automatically balance out.

c) We, being intelligent people and responsible citizens see why this step is necessary and have sufficient evidence to be satisfied that this step will work. Unfortunately, the authorities at the IITs / IIMs are either too dumb or too selfish (not that they gain anything by taking in students from upper castes, they're just selfish on principle) to see what we see and therefore must be forced into admitting students against their will.

See what I mean? The only argument for reservations in the IITs / IIMs I would buy (assuming you could provide evidence for it) would be one that said: the IIT / IIM admission process is actively discriminating against people from BCs (that is to say, they're picking people based on caste, not on merit), which is why we have to take action against it. But I'm pretty sure no one's arguing that - mostly because it happens not to be true. If anything it's hard to think of an admission system that's more meritocratic than the IITs / IIMs. And a large proportion of the professors I know back at WIMWI are involved in some social / socio-political project anyway. These are not near-sighted, unreasonable bigots we're dealing with, these are smart, concerned citizens. So if you manage to come up with a good argument for why reservations in IIMs make sense, the best thing you can probably do is take it to them and convince them to take it up.

More generally, though, I think the debate over this reservation issue speaks to the sad state of public debate on policy issues. The simple point is that public policy cannot and should not be based on rhetoric alone. What the government should or should not be doing, isn't just about principles - it's also about what will and will not work. If we're going to make critical decisions on important issues of national interest, we would hope that they were informed decisions - decisions that study the benefits and costs of available alternatives on an empirical basis. A number of people (on both sides of the reservation debate) have bemoaned the lack of empirical evidence on whether reservations work or not. I'm entirely supportive of that argument. I would love to see robust, carefully constructed empirical work that examines the real impact and costs of reservation policies while setting the right base lines [1]. I'm not sure that work exists though (though admittedly it's not a field I've looked into in any detail - if strong evidence like that exists[2], why don't the supporters of reservations cite it, without getting into endless speech-making?), and in it's absence, rushing into a policy decisions that seem both counter-intuitive and potentially costly is rash and ill-advised.

To close, let me say this: my opposition to the reservation policy is not an existential choice. I don't see being opposed to reservations as a defining part of my identity. I'm opposed to reservations in the IITs / IIMs simply because I have good deductive reasons to believe that there will be a real cost to the institutes from the policy, while I've seen neither credible evidence nor convincing argument to suggest that it will help the truly underpriviliged.

If you still want to argue for reservations in IITs / IIMs, do this. Go to the Akanksha site. Look at the profiles of children there. Then come back and explain to me exactly how and why reservations in IITs / IIMs are the best way of helping these children or others like them (or, for that matter, how, short of a miracle, they're going to help them at all) - better than the initiatives I talked about in my previous post, better than all the things all the NGOs working in this sector are doing and could use support with. That's what genuine concern for social inequality looks like. Everything else is just crocodile tears.

Notes

[1] By which I mean that these studies need to control for what would have happened naturally, and must be statistically significant after correcting for random variation. Anecdotal evidence on how one or two people have done well means nothing.

[2] It doesn't even need to be evidence from India, btw - any evidence on forced admissions of students into top institutes would be acceptable, as long as there was enough detail to allow us to look into the relevance of example.

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36 comments:

Veena said...

"That's like saying No, I don't have the wrong key, because look, the door is real."

You didn't really mean that, did you? Yeah, so shoot me.

MockTurtle said...

In response to your last response on the previous posting:- Would it be fair to say that things are not always black and white? (Speaking of which - the colors on your blog do strain the eyes with longer postings) When issues like reservation come up, people quickly take up one side of the argument, think up cute little cliches that support it and then vigorously attack anyone opposed. Isn't this the land of Amartya Sen's "Argumentative Indian"?
Do you agree that there may be some rationale behind the whole principle? I can see how IIM/IIT alumni would be incensed that their beloved alma maters have opened their gates to the great unwashed horde, but I fail to see how that should similarly outrage the rest of us.
The quality of education is not going to take a drastic hit - I don't see your professors quitting en masse in disgust or your syllabus being adjusted to cope with the lower standards. Students who are not qualified to be in your lofty company will fail their courses and not graduate. I'm sure your esteemed professors share your snotty attitude and will ensure that their stay at your institution will be miserable and will hasten their departures - and then you can all crow about how right you were all along about the folly of opening up the pearly gates to BCs in the first place.
The Indian Institutes are funded to some extent by the tax payers, but their highly qualified products never seem to want to settle down in their home country and contribute. Is it at all possible that opening up to rural dalits could finally mean that we have a few top notch engineers and managers who will choose to stay back and improve our villages?
You say that this cannot be compared to the racist outcry in America over integration because America never had to open up the ivy leagues to poor black students? Perhaps you should read up on Affirmative Action. I would have thought that a disciple of the 60's rock rebellion would be attuned to the similarities between that and this.
You ask for empirical data. I have none, but from reading your blog - neither have you.
Why can't we just say that this is a social expirement that at its best could bring undreamt opportunities to the downtrodden and at its worst could mean that a gem of society like yourself would have to settle with rooming with the son of a bus conductor instead of the son of a wealthy businessman in college.

Falstaff said...

Veena: I did actually. This is not an argument about whether we should be taking affirmative action to help the less priviliged. This is an argument about whether giving reservations in the IITs / IIMs is the way to do that.

MT: learn to read. Really. I'm not 'vigorously attacking' anyone on the other side (yet :-)). I'm asking for a logical reason why anyone would think that reservations in IITs / IIMs are the best way to deal with the issue, and providing concerete examples (not fake analogies) of programs that I believe would help and steps that should be taken. If anyone can't go beyond cliches it's people who say "things are not always black and white".

You insist on accusing us of having a snotty attitude - but I've seen no evidence of that. I have no problem if the person next to me is the bus conductor's son - as long as he can handle the math and contribute intelligently to class discussions. But unless you're seriously arguing that admissions committees in the IITs / IIMs have been getting it wrong all along, the fact that they didn't make the admission cut off means that there's good reason to believe that may not be true. Syllabus may not change but quality of class discussions will go down. If a higher proportion of these students fail that doesn't make me happy - it makes me sad to see taxpayer money being wasted for no good reason.

As for the old chestnut about IIM / IIT students not contributing, that's another myopic argument that I've blogged about earlier so I'm not going to dignify it with a response here. Suffice to say that I see no reason to believe that rural dalits will be any less hungry than others for the foreign jobs you believe contribute nothing to national development. If anything they're probably going to be more eager to get away.

As for affirmative action - maybe you should read up on it. Starting with the two serious posts I have up on this blog. My basic arguments remain: I've seen no evidence that this policy will benefit the truly downtrodden, and have strong reason to believe that it will hurt the institutes which are a national resource, not just something that's important to alumni. You do experiments by thinking through the theory and carefully designing what you believe will be the most effective and efficient method - not by taking your most precious metals and doing whatever you want with them in the irrational hope that something might work out (oh, and without any means of measuring whether or not it does).

As I say at the end of my current post, the people I really care about are the kids from less priviliged families in bombay slums. Tell me why you think this policy is the best way of ensuring social equality for them, or stop wasting my time by accusing me of being prejudiced, when you're the one whose more interested in dragging down the IITs / IIMs than in solving the problem for those who are truly downtrodden.

Veena said...

Yeah okay, so I am going blind in my old age.

I know what you meant but I read "but" and not "because" in that sentence and so the confusion.

Falstaff said...

Veena: okay, okay, I can take a hint (and three other suggestions). I will change the colour scheme on my blog. Promise.

Ashish Gupta said...

Well said fallstaff. All pro-reservation argument just prove that caste discrimination exist, and cite anecodotal evidency, if any, to prove that. Why, and how reservations benefit; what have we achieved in last 60 years; and how it will help in social equity in next 10-20-100 years is not even suggested. As usual, they (Dilip et al.) will not even answers questions you pose them. There is no emotional argument here, forget any logic, simply supposedly "good intentions".

meditativerose said...

For God’s sake people!!! Mockturtle – I’m going to take out my annoyance by replying to your comment, not because I think you’re being any more idiotic than anyone else, but because it’s the most recent one I’ve read.

Very simply put, the overall argument is:
- Reservations in institutions of higher education will not benefit truly disadvantaged people, since they typically do not graduate high school. A far more effective way of providing benefit to disadvantaged communities is to improve the quality of primary education available to them.
- Reservations in high quality institutes will by definition, lower academic standards in the institutes, and prevent otherwise qualified people from earning admission into them. Lower academic standards will lower the value earned and perceived through an education in these institutes, thus reducing value to all who graduate from them, including those who gained admission by criteria other than merit (since recruiters etc. will continue to make job offers based on merit).
- Hence, the overall social benefit of providing reservations in these institutions is unclear, while the cost is certainly clear.

To respond to some of your points (I shudder to call them arguments):
- A large part of the value gained through education is the quality of interaction and teamwork with extremely highly talented peers. Lowering academic standards reduces that value. So, less talented students will not just fail their courses, they will detract from the value of class discussion and interaction.
- Regarding your point about ‘opening up the pearly gates’ to BCs – I think the point has been made earlier – the gates are open, and anyone is free to sit for the entrance exam. If they meet the standards required, they are offered admission. In fact, anecdotally, it does seem that admissions committees place a value on diversity, so other things being equal, they are more likely to admit someone who grew up in a village or studied music, than someone with a cookie cutter engineering degree. Your point about opening up gates would make sense only if admissions committees were actively discriminating against BC candidates.
- Next point – again, reservations aren’t about opening up, they’re about lowering standards
- Analogy to racism: Completely different situation – in the US, there had to be an active opening up, because segregation did exist. In India, anyone can sit for an exam. Those who aren’t smart enough, don’t clear it. Also think you need to read up on affirmative action – apart from a couple of highly controversial instances, schools do not have hard quotas for backward class admissions. The policy of affirmative action is closer to that described in my second point.
- Re empirical data – yeah, but you don’t have logic either.
- Re the bus conductor – you’re not serious, are you? I think it should be crystal clear that the issue anyone has is with studying with less talented people, not with poor people. In any case, subsidized loans and grants are available to anyone who gains admission to an IIT/IIM – no-one has to give up an earned admission due to their families’ poor financial situation.

Veena said...

..In serial commentor mode..

MT: I see this as a social experiment too but we should realize that we have done this experiment before. All the data that one would ever want is available in the Southern states which have implemented BC reservation decades ago. Shouldn't we be taking a look at that before running off and implementing this round and accusing people who oppose it of closet racism?

Mind you, I am not saying that the data will prove that reservations were completely wrong (I personally would be surprised to see them having no beneficial effect).

Mockturtle is a twit.. said...

Would it be fair to say that things are not always black and white .. think up cute little cliches that support it and then vigorously attack anyone opposed.

Yes, and "Things are not always black and white" is not a cliche, eh?

Do you agree that there may be some rationale behind the whole principle?
No. I thought that was the whole point.

The quality of education is not going to take a drastic hit
Define drastic. And for that matter, even the tiniest hit in the quality of education needs to be considered. We are talking the right tail of the population distribution in terms of intelligence here.

The Indian Institutes are funded to some extent by the tax payers, but their highly qualified products never seem to want to settle down in their home
Blah blah blah. Yeah, bring out a completely unrelated issue that has been debated to death, and then claim it is related to the argument at hand.

Why can't we just say that this is a social expirement that at its best could bring undreamt opportunities to the downtrodden and at its worst could mean that a gem of society like yourself would have to settle with rooming with the son of a bus conductor instead of the son of a wealthy businessman in college.

What next in the name of social experimentation, huh? Private sector reservations? Guaranteed lifetime employment for dalits?? Thats the most idiotic thing I have ever heard.

MockTurtle said...

Okay, I think that someone has to take up cudgels for those who are unrepresented on this forum, so you may consider me the unpaid public defender and here goes...
1) The only argument that I see mentioned throughout as proof that reservations will bring down the quality of education in the IIMs and IITs is this - unqualified students will bring down the standard of intra-student discussion and thereby provide a poorer environment for education. I don't see how that would happen in the IITs and I recently read that the IIMs would increase their capacity in response to reservation threats, so that should allow for enough smart people to make smart talk in class while the underpriviledged absorb what they can.
2) Now for the question of admission boards existing to ensure that only the qualified enter, and that people who get in because of reservation will drag the rest down. Are you seriously telling me that there do not exist a couple of hundred intelligent young men and women who are worthy of being admitted into the institutes despite the misfortune of being born into lower castes? I don't think the new policy calls for picking up the first few backward class candidates off the streets. Instead if you choose the best and brightest from among them, I'm sure they'll give the rest of you a run for your money.
3) Next, the question of the IIMs and IITs being the nation's "precious metals" and "vital national resources", ummm.. well I'm sure you beleive that, and I agree that they do have their place, but going on to claim that when they suffer (not that I'm advocating it) the nation as a whole will fall into ruin is a bit of a stretch. The last I checked, more than 70% of those who graduate from the institutes eventually move overseas permanently. Will India shrivel up and die if some of these people have to leave for greener pastures having endured less enthralling classroom discussions?
4) Then there is the question of how reservation will improve anything at poverty's ground zero. I went to college in India during the first bout of this fight - the Mandal commission. Much to our chagrin back then, we were forced to share our classes with backward class kids from really small villages, most of whom could not speak a word of English. They would not normally have been my classmates because they did not grow up with the resources that were available to me. Many of them could not cope and flunked out, but many others worked their arses off (unlike me, I admit) to make the best of an opportunity of a lifetime. They sat up nights in their crumbling hostels to learn enough English to understand their textbooks. Today, some of them have well paying jobs at good companies and are probably the first in their families to hold down steady employment. Can you say that's a bad thing?
5) And for those who say I have no examples or numbers to prove that affirmative action works see here, here, and here.
and finally
6) I'm sorry I said you have a "snotty attitude". Honestly. I get carried away when I rant. Can't help it - it's in the genes. (If I was the kind of person who ended sentences with smiley faces, I'd put one here.)

Mockturtle is a twit.. said... said...

I just realized that there's just one twit on this post and its ME since I lack the brains to use my own arguments and the balls to use my own name.

Crp said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MockTurtle said...

@crp - Are you incapable of any form of rational discussion?
I'm not advocating closing down IITs and I certainly have nothing against people who studied at them. If you have something valid to say, then you should say it instead of standing around and frothing at the mouth.
My only interest in this discussion is that it be a discussion and not simply a one-sided take on an important issue.
BTW - What the hell is a "Sumo Post"?

Veena said...

MT:

Are you seriously telling me that there do not exist a couple of hundred intelligent young men and women who are worthy of being admitted into the institutes despite the misfortune of being born into lower castes?

Nope, but are you telling us that these(or even a majority of these) couple of hundred young men and women who can get into an IIT need reservations? Really?

Crp said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Crp said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Crp said...

mock: I was reacting to your statement that we can pull on very well without the IITs since 70% leave the country anyway.

I was claiming that in spite of everything the high quality institutions are crucially important and why reservations will hurt them very significantly.

I gave several examples too. The fact that you fail to connect the dots in my argument is indicative of your analytical ability.

I really don't have the time to break it down for you. Heck I don't have time to spell check and grammar check my comments or express myself in beautiful prose (will you pick on the cliches I use, I wonder).

Sorry, I won't be participating in this discussion further.

Falstaff said...

MT: Good. So at least we're clear on the prejudice issue. Right.

On the how do IIM graduates add value if they all go abroad, for my argument against that, see here:


On the issue of whether there aren't a couple of hundred intelligent men and women, see Veena's comment.

On the examples you cite for affirmative action. a) As I've said all along (it's practically the entire point of this post) I'm not against affirmative action at all, I'm actively for it. I just don't think that reservations into top colleges is the way to achieve that. All the stuff you cite comes from the US. Fair enough. Let's think about what affirmative action in the US looks like. It involves having precisely the kind of accountability, standardisation and intervention in the primary school system that I've been advocating all along. All that stuff I said in my last post about Teach for America, about the NEA, about Charter Schools, about Prep for Prep - the numbers you're pointing to are an outcome of all that. What they're not an outcome of is reservations in top colleges in the country, because the US (sensibly) has never done that.

b) I'm not that impressed by the specific articles you quote, btw. Two of them are just rhetoric. I'm perfectly willing to agree that there will be outliers in the population of quota students who will do well. Hell, if you went out and picked the first 200 people you met on the street, some of them might end up making it. That doesn't mean they're deserving. That's just noise. As for the third article - I think we deserve slightly better empirics than an observational trend line over time. What was the trend before the affirmative action policy was started. Is there a control group that we could study to understand what the trend would have looked like if we hadn't put in any affirmative action? How do we know that there's a causal link? Again, I personally have no doubts that the right kind of affirmative action helps, but the statistics you quote don't go very far in establishing that. If you really want support for affirmative action, may I suggest Schotter and Weigelt's 1992 QJE paper (which shows that under certain conditions affirmative action can lead to increase in effort levels by all groups - though it's experimental data, unfortunately), or Holzer and Neumark's 1999 survey paper for NBER. The key point to note in that review is this - the right kind of affirmative action can have positive effects without significant losses. Not just any random reservation policy - but carefully thought out affirmative action programs with proper institutional backing.

And that's the central point I've been trying to make all along - we need programs that will target the maximum benefit for the underpriviliged at the minimal cost to the economy. We don't need to be fobbed off with some half-baked populist measures that will allow the government to shift the burden of stuff they should be fixing on other people and will leave the vast majority of the needy entirely unaffected. If you really care about the less priviliged, then that's what you should be thinking about. Even if you believe that the IIMs will not be damaged or that the damage won't matter.

Falstaff said...

MT: Sorry, I didn't include the link in my last comment. It's been a long day. Here you go:

http://2x3x7.blogspot.com/2006/02/fat-in-fire.html

You'll need to find the relevant sections, but they're hard to miss.

dhoomketu said...

Mockturtle, onerous is the task of defending a weak argument, however, good try. Let's see where you went wrong.
1) The only argument that I see mentioned throughout as proof that reservations will bring down the quality of education in the IIMs and IITs is this - unqualified students will bring down the standard of intra-student discussion and thereby provide a poorer environment for education. I don't see how that would happen in the IITs and I recently read that the IIMs would increase their capacity in response to reservation threats, so that should allow for enough smart people to make smart talk in class while the underpriviledged absorb what they can.
Firstly, Do you realise any institute will have constraints in terms of professors/ class rooms/ number of seats in a specialised course etc. and we can't keep on increasing number of people in a class to achieve class discussion? These constraints are very real and present today. Secondly, class discussions are not the only point, there is the whole issue of forming groups as a significant (majority in some cases) part of the coursework is done in groups. Thirdly, there is the phenomenon of coasting. There are many in the batch who coast (and therefore don't put in as much work, and therefore, don't learn as much) as they are sure that they will be able to get a good relative grade anyway. By bringing down the average through reservations, you are increasing the incentive for people to coast (making it easier to coast). Obviously, the consequent deficiency in learning is at a cost.

2) Are you seriously telling me that there do not exist a couple of hundred intelligent young men and women who are worthy of being admitted into the institutes despite the misfortune of being born into lower castes? I don't think the new policy calls for picking up the first few backward class candidates off the streets. Instead if you choose the best and brightest from among them, I'm sure they'll give the rest of you a run for your money.
Veena has answered this point. Why do you need reservations if they are good enough? By the way, if finding best and brightest 200 students a year was easy then why do we see, year or year, that the students who are in the bottom 10 of the class in IIMs and IITs come in through a quota (again, I have facts about two batches in the IIM I attended, but they are as good as anecdotes, I agree). We need more empirical data to support your contention.

Incidentally, there will be much more than 200 intelligent men and women in the BC. Staistically itself, amongst the rural poor, we can find students to fill up many IIMs/ IITs. However, this policy wouldn't reach them/ won't help them for reasons mentioned in the post and other comments.

3) Next, the question of the IIMs and IITs being the nation's "precious metals" and "vital national resources", ummm.. well I'm sure you beleive that, and I agree that they do have their place, but going on to claim that when they suffer (not that I'm advocating it) the nation as a whole will fall into ruin is a bit of a stretch.
I agree the country will not fall into ruins. However, the analogy still works.
Would you want to conduct an experiment (which theoretically doesn't sound right) on the top 20 institutes in the country (okay, there will be some private ones remaining). Or would you go collect data on previous experiments, publish it, debate them and then come up with an experiment. In case the data has been collected, debate has happened, please let me know.
You can't pick on an analogy and try and poke holes in it, without realising what the analogy was for in the first place.

4)...They sat up nights in their crumbling hostels to learn enough English to understand their textbooks. Today, some of them have well paying jobs at good companies and are probably the first in their families to hold down steady employment. Can you say that's a bad thing?
No, that's not a bad thing. However, it doesn't prove that reservations in IITs/ IIMs are good either. What is stopping a good student from getting into IIT/ IIM in the first place? Nothing. Then, why do you need reservations?

5) And for those who say I have no examples or numbers to prove that affirmative action works see here, here, and here.
Great, but we were convinced that affirmative action is needed in the first place. All we are arguing is that higher education is not a suitable place for it.

6)I'm sorry I said you have a "snotty attitude". Honestly. I get carried away when I rant. Can't help it - it's in the genes.
Okay, accept your apologies (on Falstaff's behalf). Bad genes are something you can't help, I guess, though I wonder if you have tried therapy?

dazedandconfused said...

I am there with mockturtle on some points that he raises. I want to raise another point here. The influence, nay, necessity of being able to attend and pay for the regimental coaching one has to go through to get a shoe-in to any of the IITs/IIMs today. BOCTAOE (But, of course there are obvious exceptions)

I paid a few thousand bucks for my correspondence course seven years ago, easily afforded. I had to do only a couple of study oriented projects in my last semester in my engineering college, had a couple of job offers in hand and my only other concern in my life was whether I could lose my virginity before leaving campus.

I improved my ‘aptitude’ score by almost 75%. I know people who did better and have gone on to better things in life. Things have only become tougher and costlier in the last few years. I didn’t become smarter in those 3-4 months of preparation of solving simultaneous equations faster or by learning to speed read. BOCTAOE. Are you telling me that there isn’t a disadvantaged guy/girl out there who scored in the 90th percentile in the CAT because he didn’t have the time, money and mindspace to put into the preparation that me and many of my friends had and who would have probably made a better student and manager, if he/she did?

I think it’s a narrow view which thinks that the standard of the institutes would come down if such a guy is able to get in, and peer and faculty interactions will suffer. Who knows, maybe a few of us could finally learn that Indian language which might help us to sell that solution to that industrialist in Junagarh.

YES, I have misgivings as well, with the policy as it stands today. I fear that it will get all the wrong people in and keep all the right people out. A lot of work needs to be put into it and checks and balances need to be in place. For a more dazed and confused version of my thoughts, read my blog.

Crp said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dhoomketu said...

DNC, as somebody said in my blog. Ensure 50% reservations in the Kota classes and all will be well, as far as IIT is concerned! Half in jest, of course, but also, half seriously.

I agree with you thet cost of coaching for getting into an IIT might be high for some. I would be entirely with the govt. and IIT if they can do something about this. Don't think 50% caste-based reservations, which will most probably go to people who could have afforded coaching, is the right way of solving the problem.

By the way, I am, like Falstaff, getting slightly tired of this. I am sure you are. We should probably organise a large drinking binge somewhere, and the person who gets drunk last wins. Taking on Arindam (though I didn't blog then) was so much more fun.

Neela said...

falstaff:

I believe Rohini Pande, an economist at Yale, has done some work on the outcomes from reservation, though its not clear whether she has specifically studied educational reservations. She (or maybe I am mistaking her for someone else I read) finds some interesting results in difference in outcomes for reservations b/w SC/STs (which are more integrated, closer communities) and OBCs (which are larger, more diffuse communities). The outcomes, as one would expect from a focussed program such as this, are very specific, not the "general good" that we love talking about.

Second, mumbaigirl on one of the posts on Dilip D'souza's blog (death ends fun) pointed out a fairly good site: marc galanter, i think his name was - he's a professor at Wisconsin-Madison. google him. he's scanned some papers on reservation or compensatory discrimination as he calls it. Unfortunately i couldn't find any data driven results but there are a couple of nice thought papers there. The papers do mention the lack of studies on the effects of reservations.

Third, related to my previous point, I completely agree with you (hallelujah and praise the lord and all that) on the appalling lack of any sort of empirical evidence for the reservation debate. One would think that with such an important public policy decision there would be tons of data being churned out. Perhaps its a well kept secret? Perhaps there isn't really any of this research being carried out in India? Or no one believes it?

Finally, whoever spoke about reservations being a social experiment, please don't insult social experiments.

n!

Gaurav said...

Been reading your posts on the topic. Great stuff. Just wanted to add a note.

In your last post you wrote that reservations in IIMs will lead to increase in the importance of ISB and other private b schools and institutions.

You should know that the 104th amendment covers private educational institutions too. whether aided or unaided. So ISB will also have to apply the quotas if the AP government tells them to.

In fact 49.5% quotas can also be applied to private schools.

Oh, do read about the education choice campaign at www.ccsindia.org.

camelpost said...

I challenge the concerned jokers to go ahead with 50% Reservation for not only students but also for teaching staff. Its better that Government builds one more IIT and IIM and call them RIIT and RIIM (R stands for you know what) and let others live in peace and maintain their standards. RIIT and RIIM may be put under AICTE for added glory. It will be wiser for the government to offer the best of education from primary education and make them face the world rather than give them feel of artificial security by reservation.

Naam Arjun Raknewala sab Yudh nahi jeeet saktein
aur IIT IIM koi Kurushetra bi nahi hein
Na is Arjun ke paas koi Krishn bhi hai
Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya Sathuskratham
Dharma samsdha banarthaya sambavami yuge yuge
Tora Tora Tora

barbarindian said...

Great blog!!
http://barbarindians.blogspot.com/

camelpost said...

IITs and IIMs will remain Institutions of the government by the government and for the government. One day MHRD may passa resolution stating that each MP is entitled for an IIT or IIM seat as the MPs are serving the nation. On the contrary take the case of BITS Pilani. In the year 2000, BITS Pilani put up a campus at DUBAI. In the year 2004, BITS Pilani commissioned a campus at Goa. In the year 2007 BITS Pilani is spearheading a campus at Hyderabad. Name one IITor IIM which broke the governmental shell and did something like BITS Pilani could do. Every one knows the famous IIM and IIT wanting to set up a Sing apore Campus. Well the song was over long back. We are left only with the National Anthem.

Illogical Truisms said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Illogical Truisms said...

As for Dhoomk2's 'dhoom' post, see my response here, here or here. />

camelpost said...

AICTE Punched by Court Orders

The Madras High Court, in an interim direction relating to the regulatory jurisdiction of the AICTE and the UGC over deemed universities, has instructed the former to issue a public notice advising students to attend classes.

Reserving its final order, a bench comprising Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice Prabha Sridevan said the AICTE in its advertisement should mention that students must return to their colleges, since failure to attend classes would result in their losing an academic year.

It must be published in English and Indian language newspapers, the judges said.

The bench indicated that orders would be pronounced in the third week of May and observed that all deemed universities must take prior permission from the UGC before starting new courses.

The AICTE could be part of the inspection team mandated to visit deemed universities, the judges added.

hari said...

I only have one issue why only IIT's and IIM's, reservation as a whole should be limited in providing exposures during primary education for the economically down trodden, it is not about IITs and IIMs any professional educational institution is not the place to provide reservations

obc voice said...

'..I was pretty clear that there was no reasonable justification to be given for so ludicrous a policy'.
the original ludicrous policy was to start institutions such as the iits and iims when the number of schools in the country was ridiculously low. the second was to continue to support them when the government knew there wasn't enough being done to support the schools where the underprivilleged(and their numbers continued to be low) studied. the third was that no effort was made through all these years, when the intake of obc students continued to be low, to improve/supplement their skills in the pre-admission stage so that more obcs would be better able to join these institutions. iits/iims remain institutions that cater cater to a 'ludicrously' select few communities. so should these continue to carry the tag 'indian' when they so plainly aren't?

Anonymous said...

1) You cannot enforce the high-tech private industry to reserve spaces for less deserving candidates. They'd move to China and recruit from Tsinghua.

2) The heavy manufacturing/auto industries already employ a significant number of so-called 'backward caste' people. Recent Indian Express story put the number at 54% is a major auto parts manufacturer. But these are shop floor jobs and not ones that require IIT/IIM graduates.

3) By reserving seats at IIT/IIM, all you'll be doing is giving people the hope of a bright future. When many of them can't compete (I'm sure some will make the most of the oppurtunity), they are likely to be left out in the job hires, which are very competitive. You're just postponing facing the competition to a later, more crucial stage of life.

4) It seems the message sent out here is: it's OK if you have a poor, crumbling primary/sec school system. You'll have a college seat to make up for it and a job. They fail to mention that the 'job' here is not a first-tier one that someone going to a first-tier college on merit would like.

5) IMO, the real reason is (apart from vote-bank/caste politics) to divert attention from socially backward people asking the government why they have such pathetic elementary facilities. It is no better than Karunanidhi offering people free color TVs in TamilNadu in the name of poverty reduction, when they dont have the electricity to run their TVs on.

6) I'm from TamilNadu, currently studying in the US. I do have plans of returning, and I am making active efforts and not just saying that. But a confession: I ranked 6th (of around 2500 people) in a nationwide exam for a B.Tech. Biotechnology at Anna University. Because resevations at that time were 69% (in TN), and it had a 10% other-state quota added on, I did not get a seat. Around that time, I did rant at anyone I talked to that I was leaving this country and not coming back. Since then I have realized how much I lose by that position and have changed. But the point is, you dont want other deserving candidates feeling that way. Sorry if I came across as beating my own drum too loud. It is an incident in my life that I wont forget easily.

Conclusion: Somehow 'backward' people have to realize this is just a ruse to make them feel better in a 'thought that counts' kind of way. But who will tell them that in the long run, its the bijli-sadak-pani that will benefit them more?

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