Article by: Carlos Po
Anchor: Jeanne Dee
Editor: Francis Acevedo
Bihar, India. A man scales a building several stories high, climbing over roofs, clinging onto ledges and finally reaching a window, through which he slips a small piece of paper. In the room beyond the window, several children are taking an exam. The man is a local father, and he is providing assistance to his son by handing his son with the answers. While cheating has long been a problem in the Indian school system, this was a particularly flagrant display. Over 300 people were arrested for participating in the scheme, but many are unapologetic. In a developing country like India, many see education as a ticket out of poverty. But can dishonestly scoring high on a test really be called “education”?
While an event like this has little place in the developed world, it is emblematic of a larger trend in society as a whole. Education is quickly becoming more competitive by the year. According to TIME Magazine, Stanford University had a 15%-20% acceptance rate in the 1980s, compared to a 5.1% acceptance rate in 2014. Likewise, in roughly 35 years, the acceptance rate of Yale fell from 20% to a measly 6%. As transportation technology advances and propagates, the number of top-tier international students applying abroad increases. Another reason behind this trend is the creation of the Common Application. Decades ago, a student applying to three different schools would have to hand-write three different applications. Using the Common Application, a student only has to write one 600-word essay to apply to any school he or she wishes, as well as any additional supplements which differ from school to school.
Another contributing factor to the increasing competitiveness of education is the changing attitudes of parents. One example of this is known as the “Tiger Mom” phenomenon. Asian cultural norms place emphasis on work ethic, leading to Asian-Americans outperforming other races academically. And because China and India are most populous countries in the world, the result is an influx of highly skilled students able to apply to schools all over the world. As a result, the number of spots at prestigious colleges available to students are rapidly shrinking, and students looking to attend a good college will have to aim higher and shoot farther. College is becoming less of a way to obtain a better life, and more of a goal in itself.
Some particularly dedicated kids may even have had their heart set on a college as early as middle school. And while striving to attend a good college is not exactly a bad aspiration, the increasingly cut-throat nature of the system gives some students a flawed education. In Bihar, for example, the exam scores of the students are not representative of their real knowledge, and aren’t really representative of anything. Remember that the education system is not about drowning yourself in a sea of advanced classes and extracurricular activities that look good on your application, but is ultimately meant to teach one the proper skills to survive in the real world.