IIT Council proposes scrapping JEE advanced, allowing students to choose campus over course
The IIT Council, the top decision making body of the Indian Institutes of Technology, will discuss several radical proposals aimed at preventing aspirants from viewing admission to one of the elite engineering schools as an end in itself, addressing the insidious impact of coaching (some students start preparations as early as middle school), doing away with the second-level advanced examination, and treating everyone who makes it through the entrance test equally by doing away with the ranking system.
One of the proposals is for scrapping the advanced test under the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), passing which is a prerequisite for admission to the 23 IITs, three persons familiar with the development said on condition of anonymity.
Under the second proposal, a student will be allowed to choose the campus of his or her choice and not the course at the time of seeking admission. The proposals have been submitted to the human resource development ministry by two different IITs, whose officials didn’t want the institutes to be identified.
The IIT Council is headed by the human resource development minister.
Under the present system, a student has to first appear for the JEE (Main) exam, the top rankers in which then take the JEE (Advanced) exam. According to the proposal JEE (Advanced) should be scrapped and changes made to the structure of JEE (Main); IITs should select their intake from this pool.
JEE Advanced was introduced in 2013. Until and including 2012, there were two exams: JEE, conducted by the IITs, and the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE), conducted by the CBSE. In 2013, the nomenclature got changed: AIEEE became JEE Main, and the exam conducted by IITs became JEE Advanced.
The logic behind the proposal to introduce a one-test admission system is that it would take pressure off students; no ranks will be awarded so those who make it to the engineering schools will be treated as equals. It will also enable students to choose an institute of their choice rather than a particular course, whether computer science or mechanical engineering
The second proposal roots for the institutes to give adequate time for a student to discover in which course his or her aptitude lies.
“The motivation of the student is almost lost at the time they enter IITs as many fail to get the ranks they wanted, many are exhausted after extensive coaching and entrance exams. So it was being suggested that if they come to first year and are taught all the disciplines so that they also understand what they like and have an aptitude for following which an assessment can take place, which will determine the branches they should opt for,” a senior HRD official on condition of anonymity.
A few IITs have already opposed the proposal, citing reasons including the fact that students will opt for the older, more established IITs if given a choice. “It will be unfair for the students as those with higher ranks should have the choice to decide on the course,” said a senior IIT director, requesting anonymity.
Making it to the top 10% in JEE (Main) should be easy, according to a report prepared by one of the IITs.
“One does not need extensive coaching classes or many years of preparation. One can increase the selection rate to a higher percentage in the future, if required. Students selected in the JEE main (say, 1 lakh students) should not be ranked. It should become a pass/fail exam. All students who are selected are equal. These 1 lakh students should be randomly given a serial number. That number can be used in the place of ranks to admit to IITs or to any other institution that uses JEE ranks. This will mean that all the 1 lakh students who get selected in the JEE main will become equal”, the report said.
S.S. Mantha, former chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education, doesn’t think much of the proposal.
“As long as there is competition, as long as there are more aspiring candidates than seats available, filters will be needed for elimination.. in that sense, unfortunately, our examination systems are not for ranking talent.. rather they are for creating smaller sample sizes,” he said.
Matha added: “Even assuming all are ranked the same, perception and environmental factors will differentiate the end-goal like admission to computer (science) or mechanical (engineering) or any other (course).. that is where some metric will be required to rank the students.”
IITs and other top institutions may admit students from the top bucket without any further test or interview, according to the report.
The report cited above states that while IIT’s B.Tech qualification is one of the best that India has produced, “unfortunately, it is proving to be extremely expensive and harmful. It is now causing a lot more damage to the country than the gains it offers. It is unfair to subject 10 lakh children to many years of torture, in order to achieve a fine selection of about 5,000 students, to the top IITs”.
The proposal to allow students to opt for an institute or campus of their choice will help students develop an aptitude for a particular subject, said Indranil Manna, a professor at IIT-Kharagpur.
“This will also be able to keep a check on the rat race that exists today for say computer science programmes,” she said, adding that the proposal to do away with JEE Advanced, partly to keep a check on students enrolling in coaching classes is a little unrealistic.
“Coaching schools will cease to exist only when school education will become stronger as ultimately JEE Main or the Advanced exam are processes of elimination,” Manna added.
Mantha had this to say about coaching schools. “Coaching is a universal phenomenon and will prevail in one form or other, whenever one competes for a restricted commodity. The idea of removing the influence of coaching on a student’s performance, though it sounds good, is not practicable. We all know that inequities in society would push people to try and outperform others by whatever means available. This happens everywhere, why single out education? “