Saturday, January 15, 2011

Objective Subjectivity

A lot has been said about IIMA's shortlisting criteria this year, for CAT aspirants and applicants. "This system is absolutely unjust."
"What have engineers done to deserve this?"
"Why don't they tell us before hand that they would be having such a system, I would not have applied at all"

You get the drift. There is some merit to these grumblings. In fact, had I given CAT this year as a fresher, and even gone and scored 100 %ile, I would not have made it to the IIM Ahmedabad interview roster.

But then, CAT was never meant as an IIMA-only exam. It opens up a variety of options in the form of admission to so called B-Schools. People crib about the quality of education in India, about the herd mentality, they compare IITs and IIMs to the MITs and Harvards. They complain about the hype surrounding these institutions, the hallowed portals that they have become in the minds of the Indian public without actually deserving it. They complain about the 6 and 7 figure salaries paid out to 'mere engineering graduates'.
And again, a lot of it has merit, and this comes from an insider. But when these questions arise, there also exists a persistent effort from those who care to change, from those who know that these problems will in the end be the cause of our own undoing. And stemming from this, is an outcome that is not aligned with the trend of the past. It is a deviant trajectory, in stern defiance to the well established but often ignored norms of meritocracy.

One such instance is this year's criteria for calling candidates for interviews for admission into IIMA. So you think CAT is a good judgement of one's meritocratic superiority? You say that it is a way to wash away past sins? There is no such thing. For a long time, I have wondered, why do they still have this over dependence on CAT, which is nothing but a mundane and outdated way of knowing the intellectual capability of an individual. By not giving undue weight to CAT alone, but dividing the weights to assess the consistency and persistent motivation of a candidate to excel, IIMA has just gone one step towards testing a candidate on more than just his ability to grind for an exam that tests concepts that should ideally be tested on an above average 10th standard kid.
What do the Ivy League universities across the world have in common with regards to the admission procedure? They choose who they want. They choose their criteria. They choose the overall profile of students they want in their university. Where are all the dissenters? Isn't subjectivity a damnation of meritocracy? Would you not give Gmat, simply because Stanford GSB decides one fine day that they do not want IT Engineers from India this year?
IIM A, by giving differential weightage to the undergraduate disciplines, is merely cognizant of the fact that to scale up to a level where it can be spoken of in the same breadth as the best in the world, there needs to be one extremely important ingredient: Diversity.
So is this at the cost of meritocracy? In India, we have such a mutated version of meritocracy, that any version different from it is deemed to be not worthy of attention. Just ask yourself - If you are an engineer - did you seriously go into engineering because of interest? Rather, ask yourself whether you would have had the sheer guts to even propose to the society to leave engineering for, say, Arts? To those of you who did, how easy was it?
And what is the difference really, between the one who scores 99.01 and the one who scores 99.7 percentile? I have long felt that IIMA would produce much better managers if only they would let loose their extremely strict adherence to CAT percentiles, and give a little weightage to the overall performance of the candidate.
Which is exactly what they have done. The intellectual capacity of the average IIMA call getter would not be substantially different from the previous batches. However, I am pretty confident, it augurs well for the entire post graduate experience, if we are more than just a bunch of engineers following big bucks, much of which, I must add, is overly hyped up.


Full Of Life said...

Well written. I always felt the need to move away from a purely meritocratic system, especially for B-schools. Of course, I have no idea about the interview calls this year and their trends. But now, I think I quite know what they've done.

Nice to see you back on the blogging scene. I've given up on most of our initial enthusiasts ever updating their blogs again. Hopefully, you are here to stay!

fiddlesticks said...

Meritocracy is a myth anyway. Just what is merit? Marks and percentiles? Intelligence? Just why do people work themselves into a righteous fit when they see, to quote but one extremely general case, 'talkers' getting on better than 'doers'? Evidently talking is more important!
We really must get off our holier-than-thou high horses and stop taking ourselves so seriously :) We all get what we deserve, and deserve just what we get - and that's a good thing.

I might've gone off on a tangent there, but felt good to rant :) And it's good to see you back here!