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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Railway Staffers Flunk: Between Kandivali & Parle #2

IS THE COUNTRY ‘ON TRACK’?

 Between Kandivali & Parle - Part 2

To know why this section of the blog is called "Between Kandivali & Parle", Click here. 

20 Western Railway employees, were selected as eligible for promotion and appeared for a 150-mark question paper. An internal examination, it included basic questions the answers of which, as reported, officials with a few years of experience would and should have

RESULT: All 20 staff members flunked, with none able to score even as much as 90 out of 150. Just as a reminder, these people were considered eligible for promotion! 

At this point, it might help to say where I am headed to right now

I am on my way to my college, and from today, the Second Year Junior College students' First Terminal examination begins. When I will reach college, there will be talks around of two types. One, talks deriding those who have prepared well. And second, nonchalant talks glorifying, romanticizing and boasting mediocrity: 

"Have you studied?" "I haven't even covered half the portion." "I hope I pass!" "I did not open the book until today morning…" 

The list of baseless excuses is exasperating and endless. 

This is, however not about naive college students who, so far, don't seem consequential for the society or country at large. Baffling would be this explicit comparison I have made, because there doesn't seem to be anything in common. Except one aspect, our attitude. Am I talking about an attitude towards examinations? Because it has been long since we have rationalized the importance of an examination. Having been a home-schooler, I firmly believe in the futility of it. 

However, this is truly about the attitude not towards exams but towards excellence, knowledge and good performance. Inabilities, instead of igniting a flame to improve, have permanently extinguished the fire to try- making most of the functioning machineries complacent.

It is scary to see that the present of India, and seemingly the future, is more or less the same. The officials who flunked the test may well say that the questions were out of their purview’, much like a failing student's plea, out of syllabus! 
We do see, realize and understand this in our urban overpopulated areas- the problem of the educated unemployed, waiting for white collar jobs, feeling entitled to a position or promotion, but completely lacking a drive for doing well. 

If we were to come back to our comparison, our education system tests us on every step of the ladder, but disregard if we truly have the knowledge to carry out some specific task. The very fact that these staffers were unable to answer questions about the working of their own working environment, exposes their lack of knowledge as does an examination for a student in which he or she fails. 

Doesn't this reinstate the fact that the future is going to be similar to how the present is? If a majority of the country is being brought up on a laissez-faire policy, with no discipline or commitment towards one's own field of work, who thinks about the greater good then? 

Let us leave that question unanswered and us move on to another way of looking at this same situation. The Fairness Syndrome that asks if it is correct to determine a worker's knowledge on the basis of a test? Yes, I am an advocate of dedicated excellent achievers. So then is it possible to justify how and why the staffers failed? I don't think so.

But from an opinionistic point of view, I do notice the obsession of each layer of our system, educational and occupational, with tests/ examinations. To be 'eligible' for a promotion, rail employees give an exam. To be eligible for MBBS, science students give NIIT. To be eligible to study engineering, Jee-Mains are a must. UPSC is a must for civil services.

No heredity or nepotism works here. So obsessed with examinations, and why? To verify if the candidates are eligible to work the best for railways, to be sure that the engineers, doctors, IAS officers, etc, are up to the mark and serve the country well! Then why...and do not expect an answer, why is it that a country so obsessed with examination at each stage has no examination held to determine whether a politician is eligible to be a politician and run the country???? 

Why not test their administrative skills? Why not see if they are capable of decision making? Why not make them write essays on 'What will I do if I become a Prime minister?' or why not give them Multiple Choice Questions to check their basic understanding of democracy, national economics and public welfare? Why not check their knowledge of the constitution, of the judiciary, and history of Indian politics? Should each politician not be tested for checking their abilities? The day this question is answered one of two things may happen:

Either each and every politician will be stripped off their privileges and asked to prove themselves in an examination, or, we as a country shall want to entirely do away with the system of examination. 

If each politician were tested and verified for perceiving worst case scenarios and be ready for it beforehand, the situation would not be like that of students who study only when they fail or do poorly once or twice. We would not wait for accidents to happen to make structural changes or riots to happen before curbing cultural nationalism. But such Politician tests are a far fetched dream, the fulfillment of which will require a politician who doesnt mind giving that test.
 
And till then, we still have the enormous task of assessing the attitude we have towards excellence. Bringing in our college students analogy back in, you surely know what is an onlooker's response when one says, I am going to fail or I embrace mediocrity. It is pity and sympathy. And what is it when one in a crowd of many seeks to perform well. It is awe and respect. 

So what do we, as a nation, in the present and the future want from global onlookers: pity, or respect?

-SHAHEN PARDIWALA


Do comment what you think about the 20 staffers failing at their Promotion Exam.  

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