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Restoring the balance

The new IIT admissions plan gives schools their due importance, Vanita Srivastava writes.

india Updated: Jun 15, 2012 01:35 IST
Vanita Srivastava

In the world of education, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) is a globally recognised Indian brand and so it is hardly surprising that there is so much rush to join them. I went to IIT, so did my husband and father. To keep that 'tradition' alive, I wanted my son to join IIT. And like many other parents, I moved to Kota, considered the 'Mecca' of IIT coaching, with my son. But what I saw there was alarming: students bunked regular school and prepared only for the IIT entrance exams.

My son was in Kota for six months and during that period, he attended school only twice - just to give his exams. It was only after he fared badly in his half-yearly school exams, I realised that I should allow him to go back to school full time. Yes, IIT is a prestigious tag but the cost of keeping a young child out of school could be disastrous: what if, even after trying his best, he failed to crack the tough entrance test?

Thanks to that experience, I now understand why human resource development minister Kapil Sibal is so keen to implement a new admission system, which will take into account a candidate's score in his Class 12 boards. The new JEE pattern will give schools their due importance. Although the main exam would be a filtering exam, by giving 50% weightage to board marks, it gives students a solid reason to take school education seriously.

Going back to my experience in Kota, I remember the downcast face of a boy who scored 96% in his Class 12 boards but failed to clear the IIT entrance exam. Isn't it strange that even after scoring 96% in the boards, the child was so unhappy? Such reactions only prove that there is something wrong in our school system: it is not helping students realise their dreams.

If our schools had the skill to groom a child for competitive exams, why would a child go for coaching? At the same time, we should not blame the coaching institutes for damaging our educational system because the fault lies within us. In fact, many of our schools have tie-ups with coaching institutes. However, the proposed IIT admission system will not end the coaching business. But, at least, they would be forced to put equal stress on school exams. Many old-timers remember the old JEE pattern when school exams were as important as the IIT entrance tests.

The normalisation of marks a student gets in his/her board exams on percentile basis is a good concept, but it should not be introduced without any empirical data. Moreover, 2013 is too early to transport any solution from the laboratory to the field.

It would be an injustice to all those students who have been preparing for two years on a particular pattern and will now face a different marking system. At the same time, the go-it-alone approach that some IITs are taking would also be difficult to sustain.