A batchmate in college once sheepishly admitted he hadn't really been planning on attending the same college as the rest of us. He said he'd gotten into an IIT, but couldn't go to the prestigious institute due to a simple factor: he hadn't scored adequate marks in his class 12 examinations.
We never verified how true his claims were, but his case came to mind while reading of the case of 17-year-old Malvika Raj Joshi from Mumbai.
She couldn't go to IIT despite being a three-time medal winner (two silver and a bronze) at the Programming Olympiad. Someone who was obviously pretty smart by world standards and perhaps able to clear the IIT-JEE (considered one of the toughest entrance exams to any institute) couldn't get admission because she didn't have a class 10 & 12 certificate.
So despite the world being able to acknowledge her talent and her proving it three times, the Indian system couldn't find a spot for her in its premier engineering institute because she didn't have an endorsement from another educational institute.
The only place she got admission was the private Chennai Mathematical Institute, whose Dean of Studies had no doubts about her ability. He would, given he'd helped her crack the exam thrice.
"It is a credit to MIT's flexibility that they can offer admission to a student who demonstrates excellent intellectual potential despite having no formal high school credentials," Madhavan Mukund told PTI.
It was indeed MIT's flexibility that allowed them to get one of India's bright minds to go to the US. It is the IIT's inflexibility on the same matter that let them lose out on her and instead fill the seat with a student, who while having qualified through its stringent entrance examination, may well be a product of the multi-crore coaching industry that has also driven students to suicide. That industry has resulted in six suicides in IIT coaching hub Kota alone this year. It's also a system that teaches you to crack an exam, but doesn't prepare you for what you'll learn in that institute.
After Joshi's case, we could see a minister/official offer her a seat at IIT by throwing out the rule book. But that's because MIT has already shown faith in her. Our education system will remain blind to such students for the foreseeable future if it comes without the endorsement of exam marks and certificates.
Joshi isn't even the first time the Indian educational system ignored intelligence over marks and ended up regretting it.
There was once a student who failed in all subjects in his exams as he concentrated on just one. He dropped out of college, wasn't seen amounting to much in his own hometown and became famous only after a foreign university accepted him. His work has since made him a legend.
The story of the now legendary mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan only shows that while we value examination marks, it can never have a higher value than actual intelligence in a field. By losing Joshi, it's the Indian educational system's loss and tragically, it might not even realise it. Until of course it decides to claim her as its own for any future accomplishments.
(Feature image source: Twitter/@htTweets)