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‘A higher cut-off will work against rural kids’

Anand Kumar of Super 30, on the pitfalls of raising the threshold for IIT joint entrance Rahat Bano Reports

education Updated: Oct 28, 2009 09:34 IST
Rahat Bano

Anand Kumar is co-founder of Super 30 in Patna, which provides free coaching for the IIT Joint Entrance Examination, food and lodging to 30 promising, disadvantaged engineering aspirants every year. According to Super 30, ever since its launch in 2003, 182 of 210 students have made it to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Excerpts from a telephone interview:

Recently, Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal reportedly suggested that the cut-off marks for IIT JEE be raised from 60 to 75 or 80 per cent, though he later said that the IITs should decide on the matter. What are your thoughts on this?

For the past seven years, we have been training students from rural, poor background. Hardly anyone had 80 per cent marks.

For students from Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal state boards, it will be very difficult. I think perhaps national and international investors who want to set up schools in India want this (change).

Rich children in metro cities who attend CBSE schools can manage high scores; they are at an advantage. But how will rural, poverty-stricken students do it?
In schools with no regular teachers, no blackboard, not even dusters, how will they secure 80 per cent?

Some years ago, the IITs revised the rules and allowed only two shots at the JEE and at least 60 per cent marks in Class XII as an eligibility criterion. They claimed this would curb the coaching trend and help rural children. But what’s the outcome? There are more coaching centres in the big cities.

The IITs started setting experimental questions in physics and chemistry. But it didn’t help.

How do your students score?
It’s a maximum of 60 per cent in Class X and 62 to 62 per cent in Plus Two.

What can be an effective and practical selection model?
Improve infrastructure of schools. Why don’t JEE paper setters base questions on the Plus Two syllabus (if a common Plus Two syllabus can be devised)? They should set questions on topics that students read in their school textbooks. The (JEE) paper contains a lot of questions from beyond that. For example, our students are not taught the graphical approach in calculus in school. How will such a student crack the JEE through self-study?
Like it is in the US and in Europe, there should be two types of syllabus at the Plus Two level. One for average students and another for the talented and committed. There should be separate teachers for the latter.

Otherwise, if an 80 per cent cut-off rule is implemented, aspirants from well-off families who don’t make the cut will go to private engineering colleges that charge hefty fees.

Gandhi said, “Desh ka kalyan tabhi hoga jab gaon ka kalyan hoga (The country will progress if the villages do).” Yahan gram virodhi baat ki ja rahi hai (Now they are talking against villages).