Students from the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and select boards may face a tougher battle in seeking admission to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in 2013 than students from other boards.
A cap that will allow only the top 20% students from each board to be eligible for IIT admission tests would hurt aspirants from tougher boards, experts have argued.Students from the CBSE, Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE), and state boards of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh may be worst hit.
Many of them - who don't make it to the top 20% - would be as qualified as some of the top 20% students from easier boards but will not be eligible for admission to the IITs.
The IIT Council - the highest decision-making body of the IITs - last week decided on new admission criteria from 2013, including the eligibility cap, arguing that students across all states are equally meritorious.
Though there is no evidence suggesting any difference in innate merit between students based on their board or background, students from some boards perform better than others in common tests, two independent studies have shown.
This makes it harder for a student to squeeze into the top 20% in a tougher board, IIT-Kanpur dean Dheeraj Sanghi said.
"You simply cannot compare different boards. Their performance levels vary widely," he said.
In 2009, Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore scientists PS Anil Kumar and Dibakar Chatterjee compared the performance of students from India's 29 boards over 10 years in a common examination.
The selection test for the Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana (KVPY) is conducted by the department of science and technology each year to select the brightest high school science students, who are awarded a fellowship to pursue studies in the sciences.
Their results showed that the average score of students from the CBSE, CISCE, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh in the KVPY test - a common examination unlike the class 12 boards - in physics, chemistry and mathematics far exceeded those of aspirants from other boards.
The results were published in November 2009 in Current Science, India's top science journal.
"Our work clearly showed that students from different boards have different performance standards," Chatterjee said.
An independent study by Wipro and Educational Initiatives, a non-profit group started by alumni of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, published in December 2011 also concluded that CBSE and CISCE students have higher performance levels.