To arrive at a formula for admission to the best engineering institutes of the country, the union Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry has changed the eligibility criteria for JEE (Advanced) In a statement released last week, the ministry announced that all aspirants who score more than 75% in their Class 12 board exams will also be eligible to participate in the IIT counselling, provided they clear the JEE (Main) exam.
For the past two years, only those students whose scores lay in the top 20 percentile of their respective boards could make it to the IIT final ranking.
Now, students have to score 75% in their boards or make it to the top 20 percentile, whichever is lower.
The change in the much-feared, widely-taken Joint Entrance Exam for admission to the 16 Indian Institute of Technologies (IITs) was brought about after a discussion with the IIT’s Joint Admissions Board (JAB). The ministry plans to launch five new IITs over the next few years.
Last year, the JEE (Main) was taken by almost 16 lakh students, who competed for about 10,000 IIT seats. There was a furore amongst candidates who found that despite clearing JEE (Main) and scoring very high percentages in the boards, they failed to land in the top 20 percentile of the boards thereby missing out on an IIT rank.
According to RK Shevgaonkar, director, IIT Delhi, the step was taken after extensive research in the high school marking scheme across higher education boards in the country. “Over the last two years, we found that there are many variations in the way various boards assess their students. A few boards allot very high scores, while others are stringent in their marking,” he says.
“To make sure JEE (Advanced) remains inclusive, we have included the parameter of 75%,” he says. While students from national boards like CBSE, ISC and IGCSE are glad that the rules have become lenient, a few experts question the fairness of having a common percentage formula in a country full of vastly different education styles and backgrounds.
In 2012, under the direction of the then HRD minister Kapil Sibal, the union ministry had concluded that engineering aspirants were ignoring school academics because of pressure to perform in the entrance exams. A decision was taken to include Class 12 board marks in a way that students focus on both.
“We wanted to ensure that schools are not being ignored in the race to score in JEE. That is why the top 20 percentile of the board formula was devised,” says Pradipta Banerji, director, IIT Roorkee.
In the two JEE exams between then and now, it was noticed that students scoring very high board exam marks did not find themselves on the IIT merit list.
“Last year, almost 250 aspirants couldn’t participate in the counselling. One aspirant scored very high in the JEE (Main) and secured a spot in electrical engineering at IIT Delhi. However, because his board percentage did not fall in the top 20 percentile, he had to give up the seat,” says Banerji.
Many national boards such as the CBSE, ISC and a few state boards – including those of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala — are liberal with their scoring. On the other hand, in states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and most north-eastern states, marking is very stringent. This year, for instance, to land in the top 20 board percentile, an Andhra Pradesh board student had to score minimum 92%, while that requirement for the Assam board was 56%.
So until now, if you scored 91% in the Andhra Pradesh board, lay within the top 1.5 lakh of the JEE (Main) and scored well in the JEE (Advanced) exam, you would still not earn an IIT seat. “This dissapointed students greatly,” says Aakash Chaudhry, director, AESPL. To preclude this, the Joint Admission Board (JAB) of the IITs, along with the union HRD ministry, relaxed the eligibility to include those who scored minimum 75% in their respective boards.
While the decision has received positive feedback from most circles, a few voices of dissent say that this rule will go against students from underdeveloped boards.
“By relaxing the criteria for students from elite boards like CBSE and ISC, the government has made the JEE even tougher for those from the poorer states,” says Praveen Tyagi, director, IITian’s PACE and PACE junior college, which train students for the JEE exams.
According to Tyagi, as scoring 75% in the national boards is a cakewalk for many students, thanks to the lenient marking scheme, these students can focus their energy towards the JEE competitive examination. On the contrary, aspirants from boards in which even toppers don’t secure 75%, will now not only fight hard to land in the top 20 percentile, but also compete with the already well-prepared students from national or larger boards.
A few voices are also questioning the arbitrary percentage of 75%. “This move will make the students lazy about school. The IITs will not get the best students using this formula,” says Hussain Tambawala, co-founder, MelonPrep, an assessment platform.
Others raise concern about the IIT’s obsession with marks. “JEE only tests Maths and recall value, while an actual work place requires much more. Other than just assessing domain knowledge, soft skills should also be tested,” says Nagendran Sunderarajan, executive vice president, MeritTrac, a testing & skills assessment company.
The earlier criteria demanded a lot from students. “Rote learning is required to score high in boards. To score in the JEE, aspirants have to have conceptual knowledge. Performing exceptionally in both is difficult. Students can now steer focus back to the JEE,” says RL Trikah, director, FIITJEE coaching institute.
Karan Soni, 16, and student of PACE Junior College, Andheri (West) is happy with the decision. “Having a clear aim of 75% in the Class 12 exams makes it easier for me. I do not have to worry about how the others will perform.”