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Indian Muslims in competitive exams
Wednesday October 30, 2013 5:21 PM, Habib Siddiqui

After numerous communal riots and number of government reports confirming devastating state of Indian Muslims, Muslim community in early 90s started thinking on salvaging their own situation internally. We saw number of NGOs and Charitable organizations springing up throughout the country, mostly in big cities. There remains a consensus within Muslims and others that the starting point of the development of Muslims is the improvement in their educational condition. This lead to the establishment of number of schools by Muslims, various organizations in different ways trying to enhance the educational situation, spread rapidly.

Other than generic efforts at all levels of education, there were concentrated efforts, targeting bright students, helping and training them so that they are ready to grab slots in top notch institutes in India, few of them are Scholar Batch, run by M.A.Rangoonwala Trust, Pune, supported by Allana Foundation and other is more recent, Rahmani 30 under the guidance of very respectable, Maulana Mohammad Wali Rahmani.

There is a little difference between the way these two programs work, both are targeting Muslim students, both are philanthropic in nature and both work on a top down approach. The differences between them are Scholar Batch is run in Maharashtra, only for Maharashtra Board students or those who would take Maharashtra Board and Entrance Exams conducted by Maharashtra Education Board where as Rahmani 30 is specialized coaching for the preparation of IIT JEE.

I have been student of Scholar Batch and have heard Mr. PA Inamdar many times, who envisaged the idea of Scholar Batch, as per him, "Number of students passing with good marks in SSC are same across the communities, other communities support and promote their children but Muslims waste them. Scholar Batch is an effort to promote and support our students."

But, is the hypothesis correct? We have numbers to check that, according to Sachar committee report, 26% of total Indians complete matriculation but on the contrary only 17% of Muslims are completing this threshold, a big gap of 9%, so clearly the equivalence does not exist. If we take mean year of schooling, national average is 4% but for Muslims, the figure is 3.2%. Such numbers obviously result in less number of graduates and less numbers of professionals. Some of these 17% who are completing matriculation will be picked by Rahmani 30 for their intensive coaching and will be expected to crack Joint Entrance Exam (JEE).

We can also look at Enrollment rates of Muslims, according to Sachar committee report Muslim Enrollment Rate is 74% compared to all India figure of 83%.So, Muslim students are enrolled less from the beginning, drop out more as they progress in studies, ultimately reducing the eligible students to appear in these examinations by huge margins. This is one of the basic reason of less number of Muslims in any major institutes.

Another very basic problem is the competitive edge of our students, lets call a spade a spade, our student lack it, it can be because of various reasons but attendance is undoubted.

To understand this, lets for example take a case of Government Scholarship Exams conducted by Maharashtra, inspite of efforts of organizations, like Ideal Educational Movement (IEM) who run free of cost weekly coaching classes and even have an excellent quality guide in Urdu and some other organizations, there has been almost no change to the situation. The exams are conducted for grade 4th and 7th and meritorious students get government assistance for their education, exams are conducted in Urdu, still we do not have students making to merits of these exams.

There are number of other exams, National Talent Search Exam (NTSE) and Maharashtra Talent Search Exam (MTSE) both have started to give question papers in Urdu, but number of students appearing these exams is so meagre that it becomes pragmatic to stop translating and giving Urdu question papers. Forget students even our teachers won't be aware of Physics, Chemistry and Maths Olampyads.

The top down approach does not work, we are still 3% of total applicants clearing UPSC, despite hard work done by various groups. The answer to the situation is bottom up approach. Following are things to be addressed immediately.

I have been through Urdu mediums school, and I can say without a any qualms that most of the teachers are not up to the mark. Teaching as a profession does not receive very good intake, but if a teacher is teaching a Muslim group of students, he must be made to realize that he is handling future of a subjugated community and in his hands hopes of community rests. Before we inspire our students, we need to inspire our teachers, to engage with our students in more creative and productive way. Special attention should be given to English language Teachers.

Guest Lecture/ Mentorship by Successful Professionals
Lectures on the lines as conducted by Association of Muslim Professionals, under our project heading, 'Skill Development Lecture' can be of great help. These lectures have potential to inspire few students per lecture. It is more of a meeting and less of a lecture. Most of our professionals come from our very own backgrounds, they are aware about the situation and can be very fruitful if they engage with our students.

Productive Culture of debate, library and competition
There is a need to enhance the culture of healthy debates may be by conducting some debate competitions, news paper reading, reference books reading, acquisition of knowledge in general and not just for the sake of passing exams etc.

Letting our students know about our Situation
I think we need to tell our students at appropriate stage the suffering of our community. We need to remind them that, our hopes and wishes are strongly associated with their success. It has given me sense of responsibility when I was in school and I think it can influence our students in the same way.

I do not intend to trivialize or disrespect works done by Maulana Rahmani, he is very tall figure amongst us, his honest contribution to the Muslim community will go a long way. My argument is different, if we want to change our situation, we need to work on grass root levels.

(Habib is currently based in Doha and can be contacted at He blogs at

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