Social engineering

The HRD ministry may mean well,but it has only complicated the IIT entrance system

Written by The Indian Express | Published:June 23, 2012 3:02 am

The HRD ministry may mean well,but it has only complicated the IIT entrance system

After IIT Kanpur,IIT Delhi has rejected the HRD ministry’s new version of the Joint Entrance Examination,calling it “academically unsound and procedurally untenable”. the HRD ministry has reopened negotiations with the IITs. That’s welcome, but if only this process of consultation with stakeholders had been in place before the changes were rolled out,much of this heartburn could have been avoided. It makes sense to have a single test for all engineering exams. It is also true that IIT aspirants tended to secede from the school experience to cram for the JEE,a far more focused examination. Also,as the HRD ministry argues,despite its meritocratic self-image,getting into IIT has come to depend on coaching institutes,and those who can’t afford this dedicated IIT-JEE training are at a disadvantage.

However,the HRD ministry hasn’t solved the problem. It has only complicated it with the new common entrance examination,which will require students to prepare equally for the Class XII board exam,JEE Main and Advanced. The plan has been riddled with conceptual flaws right from the start — first,the HRD ministry pushed for a common test to provide a SAT-like standard. However,the SAT aims to separate academic ability from family background or quality of schooling — why should school scores be bundled into the final assessment for engineering schools? After some give and take with the IITs,the ministry has conceded that Class XII marks would only be used as a filter for them,and not be a part of the overall assessment. It clearly needs much more dialogue with the IIT faculty and administration — listening,not talking — before it rolls out these drastic changes.

The point is,coaching institutes are not the problem,they are the symptom of the spottiness of our school system. If the HRD ministry genuinely wants to produce a single,scrupulously fair test for all engineering aspirants,it must ensure minimal uniform standards in schools,and make sure that they can prepare students for the exacting standards of the JEE.

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