Admission Scam in the U.S? A Norm in India
Operation Varsity Blues
On 12th March, fifty people in six states were accused of taking part in a major college admission scandal in the U.S. The news spread like wildfire across the internet when revealed that wealthy parents including public figures such as Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were a part of the biggest college scam ever.
It was the Justice Department’s largest-ever college admissions prosecution. The investigation nicknamed “Operation Varsity Blues” involved 200 agents nationwide and resulted in charges against 50 people in six different states.
These 50 people allegedly took part in a scheme to help cheat on tests and admit their children to prestigious institutes like Yale, Stanford, University of Southern California, etc. The wealthy parents paid hundreds of thousands and sometimes even millions of dollars to a fixer who would then use the money to bribe college officials and other conspirators to help the unqualified children of the wealthy gain entry into elite colleges and universities.
This caused outrage among parents and students who realized or were reminded that those with money and power could exploit the system, regardless of whether they play by the rules or not. What the scandal did was expose the broken admission system of these elite colleges.
But should this surprise us at all?
The upper crust folks who wanted to, have always managed to cheat the system. In a country like India, where major admission scams have unearthed like the 2016 Bihar school examination scandal, Vyapam scam, this isn’t all that surprising. Many private institutes in India legally take a huge amount of money called “donations” under the management quota system.
What is Management Quota?
Self financing colleges and universities in India have about 25% of the seats reserved under the college management. To get admitted under this category one need not clear entrance exams with a high GPA. Under management quota admissions are provided by the colleges in return for donations or money. The tuition fees are considerably higher than the tuition fees under the merit based system, sometimes even double the amount of actual admission fee charges. This system of direct admission is not illegal. But many colleges and institutions have grabbed hold of this opportunity as there are students or rather, parents willing to pay lakhs and even crores of rupees in exchange for a seat.
This is common for highly competitive fields like engineering, MBBS and MBA. Those who don’t clear the exams get through this backdoor admission process if they can afford it.
So how is this process any different from the U.S scam? Although one need not cheat in exams to get admission under management quota, the hefty donations sure rings a bell? The Indian education system is broken in many ways. The fragility of the system springs from its weak foundations. Ask any Indian the reason for poor standard of education and they would say: teacher absenteeism, poor student attendance, bad infrastructure, inadequate teacher preparation programmes and rote learning practices.
The UNESCO’s International Institute of Educational Planning study on corruption in education says that there are 25% teacher absenteeism in India which is among the highest in the world. While these are the problems that need solving to fix India’s Broken Education System, the well established cheating system in exams and admission through donations deserves its own round of applause. The blame here is not on the students but the system as a whole which encourages the process.
How will then, India as a nation rectify it’s sorry state of admissions when the whole education system is mired in corruption?