If any proof was necessary that caste-based reservations have largely failed their original intent in Kerala, then a recent study by the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) has damning evidence. An alarming majority of students belonging to SC/ST and OBC categories, who get into engineering colleges on the basis of reservations, fail to complete their courses and obtain a degree.

The study conducted by Prof K Pushpangadan, analysing pass/ failure rate figures of 2004-2008 batches across all engineering colleges in the state, reveals that only 17.7% of SC/ST students pass their final exams while it's a shade above 40% for OBC students. The import of these numbers becomes evident when compared to the pass percentage among engineering students belonging to the general merit category, which stands at a healthier 68.4%: Healthy for that particular category of students but a decidedly dangerous diagnosis for the idea of creating a level playing field.

Prof Pushpangadhan's study, the first-of-its kind in the country, is titled "Failure/pass rate and its determinants in engineering colleges in Kerala: Factor analysis of a socially deprived group''. It exposes an issue that policy makers conveniently overlook - that of radical changes in the process of selection and weeding out unqualified students.

B S Mavoji, commissioner of entrance examination, felt that the state needs to think of innovative proposals like beginning a foundation course for SC/ ST students who qualify for the entrance examination. "The students who fail in this course can opt out before it is too late,'' he said.

Source: Times of India