A common entrance examination for engineering and medicine is the latest education soufflé to fall flat even before it has been tasted. No doubt, this will be of extreme disappointment to the Union human resource development minister who thought, and rightly so, that this would be the perfect recipe for students who are overburdened with having to write numerous examinations for different professional courses. What Mr Sibal clearly did not bargain on is the many cooks who spoiled the broth, the most notable being the health ministry which did not want to give up its control over the medical examination.
Mr Sibal had thought of a way out in suggesting that physics and chemistry be part of the common examination after which students could sit for an examination in their chosen field of specialisation. Clearly, turf wars and politics have come in the way of what would been a great relief for many students. Mr Sibal, arguably one of the most efficient ministers in this government, has hit the ground running on education from day one. He has come up with several innovative proposals of which the common entrance examination is one. But, at each step, the moribund education system has refused to budge despite the hurricane changes that Mr Sibal has proposed. A common entrance examination would make it logistically and economically easier for many students. The fact that many of them come from different state boards and, therefore, are on different levels of learning is a valid point. However, this can easily be rectified if there is an appropriate system of weightage of marks which would give the students a level playing field. It would be interesting to know what exactly the health ministry’s objections are barring that Mr Sibal is encroaching into its territory.
All those who are quibbling over the many education reforms that Mr Sibal and others before him have initiated seem to forget that the student is at the centre of the system. Any proposal which aims to make life easier for her and unleashes greater creativity should at least be debated before being vetoed. The same people who are objecting to common entrance examinations for institutions of higher learning at home don’t seem to have the same reservations when it comes to common qualifiers for courses abroad. The education system has been comatose for too long. Any change, especially those designed with the benefit of the student in mind, deserves a fair shot. It is only experimentation which can create educational fare which will prove palatable in the long-run.