An old rant — One year old joins school

I was clearing out old documents from the house, and came across an old rant. A 10-year-old rant! The year was 1998 and I had started class XII. Getting admission to a good institute was my most important concern. One day, I saw an advertisement in the newspaper for admission to Indian Navy’s Naval College of Engineering, that prompted me to write a letter to the editor of the newspaper. I think that the newspaper was The Tribune. The newspaper never published my letter. For old times sake, here is the letter — in the original, unedited and untarnished.

One year old joins school

Surprised! Can this really be true? At least, the Indian Navy things so. According to the advertisement inviting applications for the Naval College of Engineering, which appeared in your paper dated 2nd May, 1998, the eligible candidates must have passed 10+2 (Class XII) and be born between 2nd December 1979 and 1st July 1982. A child born on 1st July 1982 would not be even 16 years old while appearing for 10+2 examination in 1998. Having studied for fourteen years (Nursery, Kindergarten, and 10+2) means that he/she joined school at the ripe old age of one year! And, needless to mention, he didn’t have the privilege of going to pre-nursery.

A child born on 1st July 1982 can give 10+2 exam in 1998 only under two circumstances, viz. (i) he/she is a child prodigy and skipped a few classes, or (ii) he was born earlier, but his birth certificate states otherwise. The former happens rarely; the latter, unfortunately, too frequently. The institutions likes the Indian Navy want two types of candidates — either prodigies or liars!

Parents get a birth certificate with the wrong date hoping to help the child: he can appear in entrance exams for more years (most entrance exams in India have an age limit on the candidates), he would retire later, etc. In doing so, they give a clear signal to the child — Do anything that will benefit you and don’t care about the moral and social implications. The child looks at his parents as role models and follows their advice. The result? The present scenario makes the answer obvious.

Institutions like the Indian Navy and many others are encouraging parents to officially lower their child’s age. And parents find the option too tempting to resist.

What is the correct age for a child to join school? Certainly not one or two years. I joined school when I was four years old. Currently, I am studying in 10+2 and will pass (in India, pass school means graduate from school) 10+2 next March. But, by next year, I won’t be able to join the Naval College of Engineering for no fault of mine except that my date of birth on records is the same as my actual date of birth. I am sure that there are others like me, who are suffering needlessly. In today’s highly competitive world, getting admission in a good college is very difficult, and these types of advertisements add insult to injury by making genuine students ineligible. I would like to ask all institutions who think that one year old can join school — whose fault is it anyways?

The icing on the cake is the slogan in the advertisement: “The Indian Navy is for those who wish to care for the traditional value system” The traditional value system!! What is this, if not a mockery of the Indian education system.

I checked the current requirements for the Indian Naval College. Candidates should be between 16 ½ to 19 ½ years as on 01 Jan on the year of commencement of the course. So, in the last ten years, the rules have changed. The Indian Navy realizes that one year old are too young to join school. But two year old are fair game. Sigh.