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Admission Tests: Battle of the Brains

History repeats itself time and again- this was perhaps a witty saying by someone who hardly knew the implications of what he meant. Yes, the saying does apply for many general cases. Especially with people who never learn from their mistakes, especially those of us who keep the most indispensable assignments for the last moment and in the end get a 'D' - not once, not twice but again and again and…

One a wider scale, looking into affairs that are abundant in our country, there is one certain episode that seems to repeat itself year after year. Its subsistence mainly builds up as each year comes creeping to a closing.

The curtains are about to drop on a certain era and you would be thinking that that was enough for a 356 day play. Then, just at the ultimate anti-climatic moment… Clash! Bang! Swish! Y-y-eee-aaa dhishi'ka dhishi'ka! The battle begins (think of a mixture of sound effects taken from Mortal Kombat and Chele Jokkhon Sontrashi).

Exactly what is this fanatical warfare all about? Well, essentially it encompasses one of the most valuable elements that exist on the face of this earth, a weapon so powerful that Mr. President G. Bush could kill for (again) but ironically will never possess. This ultimate scepter is none other than the human brain. Now, hold on a sec- think of the term allegorically (wits, intellect, brilliance) instead of literally (organ of soft nervous tissue in the cranium of vertebrates, the gooey stuff under the skull).

At the end of each academic year and prior to the beginning of a new one- the battle starts everywhere. In schools, universities, medical colleges- you name it. It has become one of the most common customs of our frazzled lives. The scenario is additionally drastic in Dhaka, Rajshahi and Chittagong compared to other districts of the country. Limited number of vacancies; the stack of countless candidates- and the statistics seem to worsen day by day.

Kids taking admission in elementary and high school stand a fifteen-to-one chance. The ratio turns thirty-to-one in cases of college entrance exams and is pathetically reduced to almost 3% for those applying in public universities and medical colleges. So, based on the data, it's easy to see that the chances decrease exponentially as the level of education increases. The lack of adequate facilities for higher education is therefore apparent and above all, illustrates how we, the scholars, are being deprived of one of our very basic and most vital fundamental rights.

The effect of this deprivation not only considerably harms the nation in its overall effort to rebuild itself, but it also has a dire impact on our socio-economic health. Students are forced to take on a burden of studies that is quite harmful for their age and psychological composure; parents are forced into the trauma of severe stress and in several cases some desperately thrust themselves into the dark alley of offering huge amounts of inducements, so they can ensure a provisional future for their beloved child. History does repeat itself, and parents and their children go through this ordeal every few years or so to survive in a struggle for edification. It all adds up to sacrilege.

There is a lot of talk going on about Private Universities: their standards, acts and ethics. Well, to look at it one way- not all private universities are the mushroom-type, not all of them are the money-hogs and some of them (though very, very few in number) do provide an educational norm that surpasses some public universities. Admitted, there is a dire need for an Act of Standardization for the establishments. Even so, let's face it- they are providing a means for higher education; something that is imperative for this nascent country of ours. If the 52 or so private universities in our country were to be uprooted right this instant, could we provide an alternative for the scholars who would be dispossessed of a higher degree? Anyone daring to answer in the affirmative should keep a 6-digit number in mind.

The education scheme of our state undoubtedly needs major remodeling. Some approaches have been made, but they hardly seem adequate enough. In many universities effective semester and credit-based systems have not yet been introduced. The board examinations are still being held in that old-fashioned manner. Entrance examinations are still conducted in the prehistoric trend. Entrants are being compelled to take on the burden of these inclinations and engage their precious juvenile intellect in an unfair and gratuitous battle.

All in all, no one knows how long this confrontation will go on and when there will come a stop to all this brain-shed. Blame it on the education system, infrastructure, lack of institutions and qualified personnel- there are hundreds of nominees to condemn. As long as we have to take part in it, might as well make the best of it. After all- survival is for the fittest. So, all of you with gray-matter out there… prepare for brain-battle. The enemies are lean (and fat), mean (and serene) wit-machines. Shine your pencils and learn your tomes. It's a cruel war and the fronts are atrocious. Failing the mission will mean instant demolishment of all the pride you have. Think of the odds. Best of luck soldiers!

By- Farzana Yasmeen

My visit to 10 Downing Street

On Thursday, November 13 2003, I got an invitation from the Prime Minister's wife Cherie Blair to go to 10 Downing Street with two of my school friends, two teachers and the head teacher. First of all we went to the House of Parliament to meet the local MP Jim Fitzpatrick. He showed us around the House of Parliament. We got to see the House of Commons where the Prime Minister debates, Central Lobby and the House of Lords. Jim Fitzpatrick MP told us that the House of Parliament had been damaged in the Great Fire of London. Other countries donated all the chairs and counters; the table in the assembly hall were a gift from Canada. The green chairs there were gifts from Brazil.

When the Great Fire of London was over they found tennis balls on the ceiling dating back to Henry VIII's time.

From there we walked to 10 Downing Street. We walked past the remembrance place. When we got to Downing Street we realised that there is only three doors numbered 10 to 12. Prime Minister lives in numbers 10 and 11, and in number 12 lives Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of Exchequer.

At Downing Street we had a tea party. There were varieties of biscuits and variety of cakes and drinks.

After a while Tony Blair came in to the room. I shook his hands and he asked me how I was and why I got picked. I said because I'm a member of the school council and I can represent my school well.

Cherie Blair came into the room, I shook hands with her and asked her, "If you were invisible for the day what would you do?" She said she would sneak into parliament and see what her husband really does. A photographer took a group picture of us with Cherie Blair and Jim Fitzpatrick MP. A tour guide showed us around 10 Downing Street and told us that Sir Robert Walpole was the first Prime Minister for 21 years. King George II gave him Downing Street, but Robert Walpole refused to take it as a personal gift.

The tour guide showed us all the rooms that were bullet proof and talked about an incident.

10 Downing Street has not always been number 10, it used to be number 5. And it has not always been black either. It used to be dark green.

All the pictures in Downing Street do not belong to them. They belong to the London Art Gallery, and they have them on loan for six months.

On the main staircase there are portraits of every Prime Minister and each one carries an inscription which states the length of their tenure as Prime Minister.

Cherie Blair also gave us a guide book about 10 Downing Street, autographed as a souvenir. I had the most wonderful experience in 9 years of my life. Thanks to my teachers for giving me this opportunity, I shall always cherish this experience.

By Shehab Mehdi Khan

Book review

Scaredy Cat

Starting with the adage 'Knock hard, life is deaf', the second book by Mark Billingham, SCAREDY CAT manages to have its readers holding on to the edge of their seats from page one. From the very first word, right to the last, the author has been able to hold the reader's complete and absolute attention with an ability that harbors near genius. Like a skilled painter, Mr. Billingham uses powerful and energetic words to paint a pulsating picture of the morbid going-ons of the novel.

The story begins on 14th August 1984 in the county of Middlesex, with an expulsion letter to the parents of a certain Martin Palmer from the principal of King Edward IV Grammar School for Boys. Keeping the reader in suspense about the 'out-of-nowhere' expulsion order and without any reference whatsoever to Martin Palmer, the scene changes to a London railway station. The year is 2001 and the reader is introduced to a Mr. Nicklin, who is about to strangle Carol Garner in front of her three-year-old son, Charlie.

With a body on their hands, the Serious Crime Group (West) led by DI Tom Thorne starts the investigation of the matter. Within hours of beginning the investigation, another dead body turns up in King's Cross Station. Modus Operandi of Death is the same- asphyxiation due to strangulation. The first chapter ends in a self narration- of the killer himself. Addressing someone called Karen, he confesses to the murder and bizarrely ends saying how sorry he really was. Emphasis on the word 'he' as the author chooses not to disclose his identity even though it seems from the first page of the chapter that Nicklin is the murdering psychopath.

The novel has been divided into four parts; each having a different name. The first part labeled 'Eight Summers, One Winter' is probably more exciting in comparison to the others. However, the others 'For The Children' (Part Two), 'The Face Turned Away' (Part Three) and finally 'Need' (Part Four) are beautifully plotted as well. With a smooth and clever versatility the writer takes the reader back and forth from the past to the present. And after every one of the nine chapters of part one, the reader is informed a little bit more about the two seemingly unconnected characters Martin Palmer and Stuart Nicklin, through these short glimpses of the yore. By the end of 'Eight Summers, One Winter' DC Thorne and his colleagues have two more bodies on their and the pressure to solve the case is mounting on the team. The ninth chapter ends with a twist that will have the readers open mouthed and gaping.

As the story unfolds, the reader is pulled deeper and deeper into the twisted vortex of the serial killer's mind and the past that threads the bonds of Nicklin, Palmer and Karen. The way the author has built up from the past events to the present day killings is amazing and each new information revealed is heart stopping. Among the other characters introduced throughout the story, Detective Sergeant Sarah Mc Evoy, the team Pathologist Dr. Phil Hendricks and DC Dave Holland, not to mention DI Tome Thorne are the most prominent. Each with their unique personality throws light on the case in their own ways, trying to make sense of it and finally a stunt pulled by DS Mc Evoy goes horribly wrong.

Mark Billingham's Scaredy Cat is far from the stereotyped thrillers and refreshingly original. The short catchy phrases, with vibrant words make the read worth every minute. As to what the bizarre connection is there between the pivotal characters Palmer and Nicklin, that's for me to know and you to find out! So, go get busy reading!

By Prathama Komal Nabi






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