If your country had an elite university, how would you decide who gets in?
In India, this decision is made using a competitive examination. Merely 1 mark – one measly answer to a multiple-choice question – can separate a student who qualifies for the country’s elite technical university and one who does not.
Students of the elite university have exclusive access to the best laboratories, professors, peers and technical opportunities in the country. As the years roll by, two students separated by a single mark begin to inhabit different worlds.
Do students who are separated by one mark in an arbitrary exam deserve to be worlds apart?
When confronted with this question, we blame the imperfection of our competitive, standardized examination and rue that we don’t have a fairer alternative. But that is merely the symptom. The disease is the very existence of the elite universities themselves. Why have we created these exclusive islands of excellence?
In a fairer world, one where excellence isn’t synonymous with elitism, the opportunities available to two students will more closely resemble the marks that separate them.