It was but a month ago, when I had seemingly scraped through the Karnataka Second year Pre-University final examination with what would have been a score (by PUC standards) hovering somewhere between decent to average. As I stepped out in the heat, armed with my marks-sheet, to apply at all the big, big educational institutions of Bangalore city, I learned a lot of things.
I am decided on the Law path, but for the sake of a backup, I had set out to a renowned college to enquire regarding the applications for BBA and B.Com (Analytics). I walked into the University and cut through all the throngs of people to finally approach what looked like an enquiry desk. I caught sight of the poor lady at the counter bombarded with questions that were seemingly akin to one another.
‘What is the cut-off for B.com?!!’ one worried mother asked, while another father, who stood behind the lady, in a failed attempt to scream over the woman’s voice asked, ‘What is the cut-off for BBA?!’
The lady at the desk put her hands up like Marlon Brando in The Godfather before proceeding in a very dramatic fashion to explain that it was all based on general merit and that the cut-off was the same for every course. My attention started to drift into trying to get closer so I could ask the questions I had come there to ask, when a sentence she said toward the end of her rhetoric, stopped my thrust to the fore. She said , ‘Sir, Ma’am, the cut-off for girls is 90% and the cut-off for boys is 85%.’
At this point, allow me to digress. Firstly, I need explain that what I thought then, was this: what the counter lady said, was perfectly okay.
But on subsequently thinking about it, I wondered why I thought that way. Because setting such a distinct difference cannot be right, yet I seemed to accept it at the time. That got me thinking about the psychological impact a statement like that has on girls and boys, as they climb out of one window of a burning house, scraping themselves against the broken glass shards, before making their way to another one. In other words, the serious impact of such rules on girls and boys stepping outside into a brand new world.
First, some facts:
The total pass percentage in Karnataka’s Second PU, is 61.73% which is a notch higher than the last time.
The girls grabbed a total pass percentage of 68.24%, while the boys only managed to salvage a tiny little 55.29%.
In the tenth grade, the girls garnered a total pass percentage of 79.59%, while the fellas only managed 68.46%.
In the CBSE Twelfth Grade results, the total pass percentage is 83.01%, wherein the girls held up 88.31% in comparison to 78.99% by the boys.
In the CBSE Tenth Grade, girls were 88% and the boys 85%.
So, if you took the time to read every single fact, the girls are intellectually a lot better than the boys, and of course, all of you, I’m sure, are thinking, ‘This is nothing unexpected. Girls are good at this studies stuff.’
This, of course, was what went through my head as well, as I found myself struggling through that crowd of people, five meters from the enquiry desk, when I heard what female Marlon Brando had to say.
Why do we think in a certain way? Is there something in our heads that tell us that it is boys that walk all over the place, doing anything but study, while the girls coop themselves up in their rooms with books glued to their faces? Or do we think this is something genetic?
As I set about writing this article, I was in a dilemma. The thought process, with which I was approaching this issue, was biased, in the sense that I myself was a boy, so I saw the issue in a certain light, and even though I knew what was happening was wrong, I needed to look around for an opinion from the other gender.
This was when I decided to ask a friend of mine, Haiyaan Hussain, about this issue. Surprisingly, the same thought popped into her head too, where what was happening seemed to be justified in a certain sense, even though it seemed to be very clearly wrong. But she pointed out her justification for why girls seem to study better. ‘It’s always been fed to us that we need to work harder than boys to get something,’ she says.
That one statement pushed me into thinking how life, in society, is easier for the masculine gender than it is for the feminine one. Sure, there is relatively more freedom for women in urban areas, but what this freedom makes up for, it loses in safety and security.
But we are not here to speak only of the urban areas. According to www.business-standard.com, 83.3 crore Indians are from rural areas, with our population being 121 crores. The urban areas only make up 37.7 crore of the population. As I set about speaking to more people about this issue, my cousin, who very strongly believes this discrimination is morally (if not criminally) wrong, said, ‘In rural areas at least, boys are meant to go out and play once they have finished studying, while girls need to help in the kitchen, and if they have any time left, then they are allowed study.’
If this is true, then the situation is the way it is for a reason. Subsequently, I’m sure, the psychology works to serve how, since women find it harder to study, they do it better. Because for them, they need to work harder for everything.
The main reason the Civil Rights Movement in the racially segregated America of Lincoln’s era was one-sided, was because the white men were better educated than their oppressors. Another example is our own Indian Independence movement which gained traction after education opened up for us. Sarojini Naidu, M.K. Gandhi, B.R. Ambedkar and Subash Chandra Bose, were the major leaders of the movement, all who returned wielding grandiose ideas of democracy and socialism after completing their education.
Even within the urban areas, the freedom given to women to be better versions of themselves, is only based against the economic section of society they climbed out of. When small girls in school enter their menstrual period, many of them are forced not to go to school for the four days in the month because their parents believe pads are an unnecessary expense for the family. I learnt of this from the same cousin, who told me of her maid, who would not let her daughter go to school for this reason.
If women are fallen in pits as deep as that, and they climb out, against all odds, with scores that leave the word ‘average’ in the dust far behind them, the idea of hiking up the cut-offs because you’re afraid the number of girls in your college is going to be more than the boys, deserves a slap to the face. It would, of course, be disheartening if a girl gets a score 5% above her male peers and then proceeds to walk into a college to find the boys with lesser marks getting in comfortably, while she knows that she will not make it in. On top of this, the management officials proudly stating, ‘we ensure fifty percent of a class is girls,’ deserve to be punished rather than applauded.
You cannot say you are going to pick people out on merit-basis and then set a score difference to contradict the entire concept of the very merit selection you proudly boast of. Affirmative action is a necessity, but not with just gender as a parameter. Favor people based on their economic standing first, then the colleges they have access to, and then, the gender-caste-religion difference.
With India in the stage of demographic transition it is currently in, reservation is necessary, but the parameters need to constantly be suited to support the changing times. This isn’t the same India it used to be in 1951.
Of course, the scores are so amazing this time, that the fella with a 92% score couldn’t get into the second round of the said University’s selection. When he purposefully fought his way back towards the enquiry desk to ask what happened to his seat, a woman and her daughter were in the process of asking the lady at the desk, ‘I have a letter from the Church. My daughter has scored 72%. Her friend, who is also Catholic, has got the same 72%, but she got in, my daughter didn’t. What’s up with that?”
To which Marlon Brando replied, ‘Ma’am, we proudly base our admissions only on merit basis. There’s a grievance cell on the second floor of the college. Please go ahead and complain if you really want to.’
And the poor boy with the 92% turned around and got the hell out of there.
Samarth is an eighteen year young man with a passionate love for anything even remotely dramatic. He has some interesting views about life and death, the right and the wrong, and everything that comes with it.