The Irrelevance (or Not) of Junior College

Last week, I asked the daughter of a friend of mine, who has 91% in SSC and wants to take up Science, what her criterion for choosing a good college was! Pat came the reply. A college that doesn’t bother with attendance.
I just can’t fathom the current brouhaha over the junior college admissions.
What are the parents who have gone to court, fighting for? The right to get into a college of their kids’ choice and then not attend? Is there any college left that actually teaches and makes classes and tuitions irrelevant? Or as it appears to be, have the colleges become academically irrelevant with the onslaught of classes and tuitions. And if this is true, then wouldn’t the best college to go to, be the one that cares two hoots about attendance and allows the kids to attend classes outside, even during college hours?
So, is there some other non-academic relevance to junior college that has everyone so riled up?
For many students, junior college is a rite-of-passage; just not having to wear a uniform after ten years can be liberating in itself. And then there are other culture shocks and milestones; finding yourself surrounded by kids of the opposite sex, especially if you are from a same-sex school; understanding that other types of schools exist as well and that everyone does not have the same thinking process; realizing that being a topper in school does not guarantee standing first in college; figuring out that ‘Our Father in Heaven’ is not a universal prayer across all academic institutions (just kidding!).
These issues can make or break a student! What makes things easier is having a great peer group; either school-friends all going to the same college together (how boring) or finding new friends with similar interests (how exciting). This becomes simpler if the kids get admission to a ‘good’ college, which essentially is one that ensures that all the students within the college meet a certain basic minimum social and intellectual level, which in turn hopefully allows easier compatibility within the peer-group. Oh, and the ‘katta’ or ‘aka’, the canteen food and chai, the entertainment in the vicinity and access to Ayn Rand books, are all important issues as well!
All of which effectively mean that the choice of junior college is governed by only two issues; whether minimum attendance is compulsory or not and whether the college and its image fit into the social and intellectual world-view of the student and the parents. Academics has nothing to do with the choice of college!
Not that things were particularly different even 30 years ago. I joined the best science college in the Dadar-Matunga area, but the college did nothing for me academically; I got into graduate college because of the vacation classes in PCM and tuitions in PCB. Quite absurdly, the only disciplines I was enthusiastic about in that college were English and French, partly because Ms. Bhelande and Ms. Ruby were both so damned passionate about their respective subjects and partly perversely because these subjects had no relevance to my getting into graduate college. Though a short two years, junior college, was a defining point of time in my life, coming especially as I did, from an all-boys school with a lot of attitude. To top it all, I was lucky to have forged some terrific friendships, most of which have survived till today!
It is definitely worth fighting about the choice of junior colleges…just as long as we all know what the true reasons are!

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