Sunday, November 06, 2005

A tragicomedy in 993 words

What can you say about a 993 word tragicomedy? Particularly if it was created using a type face which is probably frowned upon in every educational and business institution including the ones that it intends to hold sway over? I don't know, but certainly it seems like an exercise in anachronistic stupidity. Let my arguments not sway you, but you can find the comedy here and come to your own conclusions.

The document starts by lamenting about the "indifferent attitudes and practices against girl child including their health and well being". But the salient features of this new regulation introduced by the CBSE are these:
  1. 100 percent waiver of tuition and other fees (except for meals and transport) in current affiliated schools from standard 6 onwards for every girl student "who is also the single child of a parent"
  2. "Appreciation" if these schools would consider a 50 percent fee waiver for "every girl student who is one of two daughters who are also the only two children in a family"
  3. In addition to 1. and 2. above, any other fees (i.e. for transport and meals) to be waived at the discretion of the school management.
Before I go on to actually say why I don't like what the CBSE is trying to do, look closely at the language (the highlighted parts specifically) in the second point. Is it just me, or does that line remind you of the old "I have two daughters and both of them are girls" joke that has been attributed to the Physical Education teacher of every school in India (and to the head of a certain educational institution in the outskirts of Chennai)? And if you are one of those who clicked on the link above and downloaded a MS Word doc, did you notice the font in the document?

Jokes apart, this encompasses every single (eligible) girl student regardless of economic conditions. But, if this was to be limited to underprivileged gals alone, then the CBSE board is the wrong place to apply it, since most CBSE schools (a overwhelming majority, I should think) are outside the reach of the average underprivileged kid in India.

I'd have agreed to such a system only under these conditions:
  1. If it was applied, on the basis of economics, i.e. for all those gal kids whose parents fall under a certain income bar.
  2. If it was applied by the government for non-CBSE government schools, where a large percentage of the middle class and a overwhelming majority the lower middle class send their kids to study.
  3. If this scheme's intended results (whatever they may be) were validated by the application of this scheme at the Central government run Kendriya Vidyalayas for a year or two.

But I know the first is next to impossible in India, where tax evasion is rampant and there is no better way to judge someone's economic capacity. Moreover, the rules are to be implemented on the basis of a simple affidavit sworn by the parents who are to "intimate" the school on any changes in the "single status of the girl child/children in the family" (single status???). Will this self regulation help?And the last mentioned won't serve much purpose since the 871 Kendriya Vidyalayas are already subsidized and AFAIK, the are the only government run CBSE schools in the country.

And as Mrs.YGP (for all you readers from outside Chennai, she heads a group of well known schools affiliated to the CBSE in Chennai) says, this will cause just the opposite effect than it is intended, i.e. it will increase discrimination. She raises a valid point that even if there is just one eligible girl student per class in her school(s), her organization can afford to waive the fees for the estimated total of 140 girl students.

Or maybe a school like Padma Seshadri can, but forcing private schools to do something like this which goes against their business model is not the hallmark of a free market economy that our country claims to be. The government is essentially trying to be a welfare state without the money infusion from its side.

But who the CBSE trying to help? The middle and upper middle classes? Are these the target demographic for all the anti-female foeticide propaganda? Is this community group that accounts for majority of female school drop-outs? The answers for the last two questions are definitely "No" which is why the second point that I raised above, i.e about the non-CBSE schools, particularly the ones run by the government itself, is extremely pertinent.

I am sure everybody would love to get something for free, but was this something that was asked for? Is the CBSE trying desperately to prove that there *IS* something called a free lunch, after all?


Ishwar said...

this comes from a society that insists that limits a woman's freedom of dressing. The irony is disgusting

anthony said...

I always thought it ould be good idea to have reservations for female students in the jawahar navodaya Schemes as well.thus spakeanthony lol, borrowing a wrod from u.

anantha said...

anthony: I don't know if reservation is the right way to bring about equality. At least, I wouldn't want reservations continued for ever. Look what it did to Tamilnadu. 40 yrs down the line, what reservation has acheived is that it has turned casteism and discrimination up on its head. I don't want to state specifics here, but any reservation imposed on society should have an end-date specified so make sure the balance is just equalized and not taken to the opposite extreme of the status quo.

Ishwar: Ummm, true, but it does also come from a society that limits a man's dressing too and that is also why its disgusting.

Deepa said...

Welcome to the 'rant against CBSE policy' group:)

Anonymous said...


Think about the number of girls who shift to CBSE schools once this comes into effect.

Your analysis is based on how things are right now. May be 5 years of free education, things might look much better.

The problem though is, most of the CBSE schools, at least in Tamil Nadu, are in the bigger towns/cities where girls go to school. I guess it will make a little more sense if they offer free education in all the Matriculation and State board schools.


anantha said...

Prabhu: I understand that I am talking about the current scene. Discuss panna panna dhaan, you get more ideas. Like I said, any such reservation/waiver should come with a time clause, saying for example, like the time frame that you mentioned, i.e. 5 yrs, after which it will be reviewed. But that kind of wording has never been seen in Indian laws, EVER. And your last point does reflect my view as well, don't you think?

venusian_observer said...

definitely agree with you on that CBSE schools are not within the reach of most rural and/or underprivilleged households.
but with foresight, i think that if more girls transferred to the CBSE-sylabbus schools in the coming years, it would be a shot in the arm for the system. this CBSE directive gives such households who have such a choice in education to take up the CBSE option (which, biases as i may be, is the better option, i think).
and i hope that if this 'program of concession' succeeds then the state governments will follow in the footsteps and actually issue similar directives to StateBoard and Matricultion schools.
also, i've always believed a number of existing problems prevalent in our soceity can only be eradicated via education. and in a country where the female education ratio is as low as 33% i think this is a big step forward.

Ishwar said...

reservation is all fine, utopian, ideal, et al. But will anybody talk about financial feasibility?

anantha said...

Ishwar: That is the problem dude. If you check that Hindu article that i have linked to, Mrs.YGP seems to suggest just that. But you know what, the moment someone mentions money vs such schemes, the "utopian evangelists" start a lyching campaign. So I guess most ppl shake their head and try to work around the scheme. That's why u dont hear voices against the scheme.

Venera: Reservation is not the end for every social evil, particularly if there is no expiry date. Without expiry dates, the balance will just shift to the other side (mebbe not in this case, but its a common scene). And oh, as Ishwar mentioned, how do you think the schools are going to pay for this? I know that the commmon story is "Schools are minting money", but I don't think their profit margins are big enough to let 50 students (ball park figure, but definitely accurate) study for free from Std 6 to XII!

?! said...

(a) The effect, if I am not mistaken, will be to cause the more hoity-toity schools to either not-so-subtly deny girls seats, esp in the more paying Science groups, or shift to ICSE.

(b) This dress limitation disgust against Anna Univ's move?
EVERY organisation applies a dress code. (Sometimes frowning or creating peer pressure against people who dress formally!)
If you are going to college, you might as well GROW up and learn it.
Twasn't as if they asked for sarees or the hijaab. ( Quote :"The draconian dress code not only outlaws sleeveless tops and short skirts but also jeans and T-shirts". Hullo ? Who bounced YOUR reality check?)

Both examples, in their own way, of how the practical clashes with the Utopian. And how foolishness is often dangerous.

So much easier to rant in the comments.

GratisGab said...

How feasible is this? I don't think they really bothered with checking that out!!!

venusian_observer said...

yes, financial feasibility is the major concern after social equality.
misguided as i might be, i do believe that quality education should be free for all. (yes i know there's no such thing as a free lunch). i believe that the govt should finance education, with an independant body like the CBSE governing the syllabus and ensuring uniformity in education. i also believe that the money should come from taxes. ok i don't see any of the above happening in the near future.
what may be financially feasible and realistic is a loan system. i think this would strike two birds with one stone. the birds being - quality education and tax evasion. a system where the govt pays for the school fees and the student, upon graduation, starts paying the govt back in taxes. this system is currently used in many developed countries.
sorry to hijack this discussion but i think it has brought up another issue in tax evasion.. hmm

?! said...

There IS a very soft loan system in place. A couple of my PG clasmates had availed of it. Wherein (I think SBI had this, apart from other banks) you take a loan for the FULL duration of your studies (grad/postgrad) and your payment starts in installments after you complete.
Fair. Subsidising through taxes isn't the answer, because the salaried class always ends up paying the dues of everyone else. Plus it rewards mediocrity.

alpana said...

Agree with what you say. As an aside--female foeticide does occur more in affluent families. One of the richest districts in India, Southwest Delhi, has the lowest girl:boy ratio with just a little over 700 girls for 1,000 boys. They have the money to abuse technology and they do. Sadly enough our society treats girls as burdens, which is where schemes like the CBSE, however flawed they maybe, come into play.

anantha said...

?!: Is this loan thing for school education too? I know there is something for college. I had one for my undergrad and partly for my grad school duration. I am a novice at all things financial but I think the US system of taxes is much much better.

Venera: Yes, QUALITY education should be free for all. But the problem with school education in India is that it is teacher intensive and parents can escape by blaming teachers. So in order to compensate for the lack of domestic follow-up, teachers have to work doubly harder and plus with all the focus on technology and engineering and medicine in our country, there is a clear lack of manpower for other professions. We have forced kids to toe a certain line for years and now we can see the results clearly. So as number of teachers decrease, so will the value of the remaining ones and ergo the costs of education with the better schools increasing their fees. And this will only spiral upwards.

anthony said...

Reservations has it own benifits as well as cons. But I don't have any reservations againts reservations for education. But there should be a time frame of course. With reservations, more females from the lower starta from the society could at least get their first chance. Navodya scheme I said is a Free Primary school till 12th std. I have seen many girl students who did exceptionally well, who otherwise wouldn't have had a chance. But Novodya's start at class 6, resevation is for those girl child who had a disadvantage till class 5. And class is too early an age for teh girl child to get influenced by the evils of reservations. I was talking only about a specific incidence. U see I am a product of the Navodaya.

bigplans said...

anti - the system of taxes in the us is as inane as india...thanks to the ssn system it outperforms india by a mile.

anantha said...

Anthony: I am all for it, if it will get more ppl educated. But once the basic education is guaranteed, the rest should be left to the student and everything should be equalized after that, regardless of caste, creed or sex. I know a lot of ppl who have gotten "caste certificates" to get into undergraduate programs that they would not have gotten into originally. That lowering of standards is totally unacceptable. A lot of ppl do claim that the lower standards are required. It is true to a point, but if basic education (or say even the whole school education system) is standardized, then I don't see any reason for reservation later on. And it is well known that these standards need to be improved only in the interiors, which the ppl in charge dont seem to see!
Bigplans: As a CA, you will obvsly know better. Ya.. the SSN.. that changes everything!

Saranya Kishore said...

Hey Anti
Long time.

I dont know how KV's are doing now, but they have had tuition waivers for girls since 1990s. It was not fully waived, but it was lesser or something.

And KVs I guess are trying their best to reach the masses.If the fees is less, this might prompt lower class people to study there.

Kudos to YGP for having said so.
Btw, is PSBB producing good results nowadays?

Saranya Kishore said...

And I dont know if KV is for poor people, but I know that KV is for kids whose parents keep moving about all over India like central govy employees.

anthony said...

Oh yes, I am only talking about educaion at the basic level.. otherwsie I am all againts reservations of other sort.. u see, in the name of reservations, it is not the genuine tribals who gets the benefit but only the rich and elite amongts the tribals. And since there are many tribals in my place who gets reservations i know which kind of people get the best out o it.. Only those whose don't really need it. And u won't be surprised to know that Most tribal people who gets to become Civil servants are from the ELITIST elite. And it pull down the competitiveness of the people in the long run.

anthony said...

if anyone is from Mumbai visit my blog for a little fun here

?! said...

Anti :The loan as far as I KNOW was for PG/grad students. Dunno about the rest.

KVs are probably the ONE good thing about the government messing in education. Reasonable discipline, academic focus, egalitarian mindset.

And RESERVATION spells MEDIOCRITY. Give all sorts of financial incentives. Free education if necessary. But dammit, let people MAKE it on merit.

And not because A's grandpa was screwed out his dignity by B's grandpa.

anantha said...

?!: Totally agree, particularly the last part. But if you were to mention this in a public conversation, you will be branded as a potential grandpa screwing another potential grandpa out of his dignity! Thats the problem. People have started taking these things for granted.

Anthony: Nice one.. saw that on Desipundit in the morning. And what you say about the reservation is true.. wholly true.

SK: Dunno much about PSBB these days. Its 9 yrs since I graduated from high school. But I think YGP has been like that for sometime now, the elitist image of her schools not withstanding. I think economics is what paints that "elitist" image that we see regarding certain schools.

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