We seem to do all important things at the last minute. The Commonwealth Games have been a recent example. We were cleaning up the games village, as athletes started arriving. One day before the opening ceremony, we weren't sure whether the public will be able to use metro to reach JLN Stadium. And once the ceremony is over, we all feel elated, and forget that this habit of doing things at the last minute cost us dear. We forget that sometimes tight deadlines will be missed as the Airport Link did this time. The T3 terminal of the Delhi airport opened with much fanfare in July but could not be ready for domestic traffic to shift there. And despite good sporting infrastructure in Delhi, we could not be a serious contender for Asiad 2018, because the rest of the world does not like things being done at the last minute. (And the central government saved us from embarrassment by not supporting the Delhi bid.)
The same culture is visible in education as well.Our semester starts around 1st August, and on 31st July, our admission process is still going on. In fact, no one in the country raises an eyebrow if the admission is done one month into the semester. On the contrary, if you close admission before the classes begin, people will file court cases against you. All our admission tests take place in April and May, with results being declared 4-6 weeks later. There is no possibility of completing the admission process before July.
We declare admissions open in colleges which exist only on paper. There is no faculty, no administration, no building, and sometimes we don't even know which city the college will be opened in, but we offer admissions, and we hope that like a Punjabi wedding, things will fall into place before the students actually arrive to study.
Even the post-graduate admissions, where the number of applicants is much smaller, are done at the last minute. If you look at the admission to technical programs (since I am more familiar with them), the candidates have to pass GATE. This is held in February. (Thank God, IITs do not have enough manpower and other resources to hold JEE and GATE together or very close to each other. Otherwise, it would have been held even later.) It is expected that students will give this exam in their 8th semester.
Now, there are serious repercussions of having GATE in the 8th semester. When I talk to others in academia, I get a sense that most people agree that to improve the quality of post-graduate students, we need to ensure that the student gives GATE before the campus placement season begins, and preferably, the admission offer should be made before the student gets the first job. All this would indicate that GATE should be held at the end of 6th semester, or at the beginning of 7th semester. Most of the basic courses in any discipline, in which GATE is supposed to evaluate the candidates are done in most colleges by 6th semester. So it is easier for students to give GATE early. And once the results are out, at least some enterprising institute will offer admissions immediately.
Now, if there is apparently no disadvantage of having GATE after 6th semester, and there are potentially lots of advantages of having GATE early, why don't we just do it. I have a theory for this. I think doing things at the last minute is exciting. It is a thrill. Punjabi weddings wouldn't be same if some event manager were to organize them and give a money-back guarantee against any last minute problem. There is not enough thrill in the lives of us academicians. And we are simple people. We get satisfied with simple thrills of managing admissions at the last minute.
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