“ a compromise formula which includes a proposal to take top 20% students based on percentile ranking of respective boards for preparing the merit list”

How meaningless is this solution ?. Higher education in India will become the domain of the school toppers and Children of affluent parents and we wonder why half a million students leave India to study undergraduate courses overseas. Children who will never return to a country that shunned them.

Is this is what we call inclusive in RTE ?.

God Save India

Inclusive education does not mean that everyone must enter, or pass out from, an IIT. It only means that if you wanted to, you could have a shot at it. The child labourer is excluded because she can never dream of entering an IIT; she may absolutely hate IIT, but not trying to join an IIT should be her decision. Even if there is only one IIT train, every child must have access to the platform where the train comes. Of course, not everyone will get on to the train but everyone knows what to do to have a shot at the train. This is called inclusion in education. Everyone must go to school till class 12; those who work hard, and are willing to work harder still, will join an IIT. Others will, by choice, decide not to work that hard and become economists.

Shubhashis Gangopadhyay


All children are born equal and mindless politicians are trying to grade the children and youth of the nation and create a new Brahamanical Caste system in Education, which is pandering to the neo rich who can afford to send their children to elite private schools and Coaching schools.

"HRD Ministry of India wants to build castles of higher education on the bamboo scaffoldings of its schools" ~ Satish Jha

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

47 - Necessity of JEE: Alumni Report by Akshat Shankar

From: akshat shankar 
Date: Wed, 8 Feb 2012 22:26:23 +0530
 Necessity of JEE: Alumni Report [1 Attachment]

Fellow Alumnus,

The Ministry of HRD has proposed the merger of the IIT-JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) and AIEEE (All India Engineering Entrance Examination). This proposal intends to alter a system that has been the backbone and a shining example of opportunity and fairness in the Indian education system. In light of such far reaching and irreversible consequences of this proposal the alumni of all IITs believe it was necessary to critically examine the reasons set forth by the HRD ministry.

Please find attached a document prepared by the alumni of IIT which critically examines the reasons put forth by the HRD ministry to abolish JEE in its present form and merge it with AIEEE. The paper argues an opposing viewpoint and builds the case for the necessity of Joint Entrance Examination for IITs.  

In case you agree with the document and believe that JEE should not be abolished, please sign on this petition. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/necessity-of-jee-for-iits/
You are invited to offer your comments or remarks. This document along with your views would be presented to the IIT Council.


Regards,
Alumni of IIT
___________________________



 Necessity of Joint Entrance Examination for IITs

Position Review

Abstract

This discussion document prepared by the alumni of IIT critically examines the reasons put forth by the HRD ministry to abolish JEE in its present form and merge it with AIEEE. The paper argues an opposing viewpoint and builds the case for the necessity of Joint Entrance Examination for IITs

 By

Alumni, Indian Institute of Technology

 Executive summary
The Ministry of Human Resource and Development has proposed the merger of the IIT-JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) and AIEEE (All India Engineering Entrance Examination). This proposal intends to alter a system that has been the backbone and a shining example of opportunity and fairness in the Indian education system. In light of such far reaching and irreversible consequences of this proposal the alumni of all IITs believe it was necessary to critically examine the reasons set forth by the HRD ministry. This document intends to achieve the same.

The reasons cited by the HRD ministry include the following: JEE results in lack of focus on board examinations; JEE encourages Coaching institutes thus skewing the opportunities towards rich students; JEE can be cracked through pattern recognition etc. Although the ministry points out what JEE has failed to do, it does not give sufficient reasons to demonstrate how the proposed merger of JEE and AIEEE will address any of the above issues.

The Alumni on the other hand have demonstrated the merits of JEE examination particularly the following: JEE is amongst the fairest examination in the world; it gives maximum opportunity to all citizens of the country as can be seen in the demographic spread of the selected candidates; JEE aims to test students on analytical skills that are key for success in professional lives and does not discriminate with candidates on the basis of their ability to speak English or any other criteria that is more characteristic of a candidates social circumstance rather than the inherent capability and potential; JEE questions are set by Professors who have themselves demonstrated a high level of rigor and professional discipline by dedicating themselves to a lifelong pursuit of a career in research and development; and last but not the least JEE and consequently IITs have contributed so much to the success of India and its global recognition by ensuring that only the very best get in.

These and many more such reasons are presented in this document that should be considered by the decision makers. Instead of a unilateral decision to merge AIEEE with JEE there should be an informed discussion and the alumni and the aspirants of IIT should be given an equal voice. The IIT Alumni are fully behind preserving the JEE examination in its current form while being open to improvement opportunity but they are opposed to a unilaterally imposed change that will do more harm than good.
 Background
HRD Ministry has unveiled a new proposal to offer a single entrance examination to all engineering admissions thus bringing IITs and institutions admitting students through AIEEE onto the same platform. There have been multiple reasons cited to explain the rationale behind such a proposal. This position review is a discussion document developed by IIT Alumni from across the globe to test the substance in these reasons which if not analyzed correctly, will lead to fragmentation of Higher Education in India rather than building intellectual capital for India.   
Purpose and Goal of the Position Review
The purpose of this document is to enhance the composite outlook towards aforementioned proposal and to provide a response to various criticisms of the current status quo from the experience of those who have succeeded in it. This document will allow for the dissemination of background material which will be furthered by presentations at topic-related meetings. The authors envisage that this document may help the IIT Council in their decision to modify the present selection system by understanding the viewpoint of those who have succeeded in the present system.
Approach
With such a proposal being thought of, that will have a lasting impact on Higher education in India, there is a need for a comprehensive approach to analyze the cited reasons objectively and to back them up with evidences This position review document presents few reasons cited by the ministry along with related perspective from some of the findings and conclusions gathered through the experiences of various Alumni. 

Scope of the Position Review
The scope of this document is limited to providing a response to the arguments put forth by the HRD ministry in criticizing the existing IIT-JEE selection process. There are several other merits of the existing IIT-JEE system than those outlined in this document which cannot be highlighted here in order to preserve brevity and relevance. 

Development and Authorship
This document represents the culmination of 2 weeks of cooperation amongst several IIT alumni   through voluntary partnership in the organization of 4 discussion forums on Necessity of Joint Entrance Examinations for IITs. These forums have addressed not only the issue of Necessity of JEE for IITs, but other issues such as negative impact of a single assessment method for prospective engineering students, industry willingness in regard to recruitment of graduates admitted through the proposed process and the possible approaches to curtail the IITJEE ‘Coaching’ industry. Twenty-three participants and 3 reviewers from 7 cities contributed to this position review and helped in structuring this document. For further details on this document, following can be contacted:

Kunal Chandra, +234806739004 , kunaliit2002@gmail.com
Abhijith Jayanthi, +919866898311, abhijith.jayanthi@post.harvard.edu
Akshat Shankar, +919560966885,,  akshat.shankar@gmail.com
 Position Point - 1
It is not abolition of JEE but merger with AIEEE. The new examination will still be conducted by the IITs.

Until now the authority of conducting the entrance examination was solely with the IITs. According to newspaper reports, in the new proposal, 40% weight age would be given to marks obtained in the board examination (which includes CBSE, ICSE and state boards) and the other 60% would be an examination jointly conducted by the IITs and CBSE. With considerable differences across various boards’ difficulty standards, using candidate’s performance in such boards will result in skewed evaluation. It is important that every candidate is evaluated against a common benchmark rather than bringing in a handicap component for people who come from boards with tougher evaluation schematics.

The pattern of the separate examination would also be significantly different from the one which has been successfully used for last 60 years. Importantly IITs would lose the sole control by which they have ensured that there is no scam (except an aberration in 1997 which was quickly corrected) while there have been repeated cases of ill controlled management of examinations for almost every other engineering and medical entrance examination in India. In the case of CAT, many non IIMs use their score but the responsibility of the examination lies fully with the IIMs. A similar scheme can be devised to let IITs design the examination and other colleges to use that score. The faith of the people in the integrity and competence of IIT professors is infinitely more than any other existing structure in this country.

Position Point - 2

If a student can do well in JEE then he can also do well in the board examination.

It is not true that if a student can do well in JEE, he would be able to do well in ‘Boards’ as well. Empirical evidences suggest that the correlation between the board examination results and JEE results is not significantly high. In fact a number of state board toppers fail to make into IITs. On the other hand, most of the IITians score well in ‘boards’ but definitely not in the top 1 percentile which is what IIT takes. When the entrance criteria of BITS Pilani was changed in 2005 from ‘board results’ to an entrance examination, it resulted in a significant shift in the kind of intake. Importantly, the purpose of board examinations can never be equaled with purpose of an entrance examination, more so JEE. When the objective of evaluation is not the same, it is not appropriate to address both the issues with a single stroke.

Position Point - 3

IITians don’t score well in board examinations because their focus is on JEE. If weightage is given to the board examination, they would be as good in board examinations as in JEE.

IITs are known as institutes of excellence and the degree of inquiry involved in JEE is different from other entrance examinations. In order to bring all the engineering colleges under one ambit along with the boards, the level of inquiry would have to be standardized which defeats the whole idea of excellence. 

It may be true that the performance of IIT aspirants would improve in board examination but it is incorrect that they would rank as well in ‘boards’ as they rank in JEE. After all, each examination has a distinct purpose and the board examinations are designed to cater to the need of the masses. 

Anyone who has appeared in board examinations would remember that  rarely an original question was asked in the examination and even teachers  advised students to focus on working 'solved examples' from the book.  Board examinations have historically stressed on asking definitions and some standard questions which are normally ‘crammed’ by students.     

The reason for the same is that our school education system (which includes CBSE, ICSE and state boards) is so weak that most of the teachers find it difficult to assess an alternative solution. The joke goes that if Newton is asked to define the three laws of motion, most of the school teachers would mark the answer incorrect as it would not be tallying with the book definitions. On the other hand, JEE question papers are checked by IIT professors who are definitely more competent than the school teachers.

Also an easy examination becomes unfair to the meritorious student as who does better in such examination depends on sheer luck rather than merit. It should not be forgotten that mediocre examination systems which stressed on memorization rather than intelligence had disallowed Ramanujan from higher studies and failed Einstein in the entrance examination of ETH Zurich. 

 Position  Point - 4

IIT JEE has encouraged ‘Coaching’ and abolishing the examination would shut them.

The coaching industry for IITs is a dangerous trend but it is also the case for the board examination. The only difference may be that IIT coaching is a specialized big industry while school ‘Coaching’ and tuitions can be found in every nook and corner of our neighborhood. In fact big ‘Coaching’ exist for the CAT examination as well for which the syllabus comprises of high school level Math and English. Similarly ‘Coaching’ exist and are universally used by students preparing for any examination right from primary school to chartered accountancy around the World. In fact if the students can live in places like Kota and yet be a part of formal school, it says more about the administrative authority monitoring those schools. It may also be argued that the students are forced to join expensive Coachings as the competence of teachers in Coachings is much more than in the schools. These loop holes should be first fixed by the Government before putting the entire blame on the Coaching industry.
Under the proposed new policy students would be forced to start going to the ‘Coaching’ for both the board examination and for the proposed examination. Can we expect any of the ‘Coaching’ being afraid of the present move? In fact they would now start an integrated program as it would be difficult for a student to master two distinct examinations. Unfortunately, attempts are made to kill the patient rather than tackle the disease. Creation of varied levels of academic institutions will play a vital role in supporting students with varied intellect – leading to democratization of education. To standardize, will be a blatant abuse of such democracy.

In almost every examination except JEE, ‘Coaching’ have successfully tried to leak the paper. However big be the ‘Coaching Industry’ for IITs, no one can allege that they have been able to leak the paper in the case of IIT-JEE (except in 1997 when a re-examination was immediately ordered and that coaching from Lucknow is still embroiled in a court case) Under the new proposal, ‘Coaching’ would become more powerful as it would become easier for them to tame the system. Further, rather than tackling the issue of excess pressure on the student, this proposal will lead to various coaching institutions attempting to fold into a single window offering, thus leading to monopoly and additional unwarranted stress on the students.

There are other effective ways to counter this menace which should be looked upon. IITs can start counseling service for the students where the professors and the alumni can guide students. In fact prescribing good books to read and uploading free video lectures on Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics would be a great service to the nation and would significantly decrease the need of ‘Coaching’ in IITs while at the same time heralding the Indian education system into a new era where technology can be put to great use. The alumni of IITs are more than happy to take initiative in this regard.

Position Point - 5

In JEE, everyone focuses on ‘pattern recognition’ of the questions rather than the essence of the subject. Hence regular course work is excluded, which would have given the subject grounding that is required. Hence board examinations should be preferred.

The presumption that everyone focuses on 'pattern recognition' in JEE implicitly implies that it does not happen in school examinations. After all, results in board examination also depend on a single examination (with a small weightage to 'laboratory practicals' which is ‘managed’ by the school itself!) and there is no reason why people can't crack them in a similar way.

Board examination have historically focused on some definitions (which are to be crammed) and some easy standard questions. On the other hand, there were always some 'out of the box' questions which used to come (when JEE was subjective) in the JEE examination for which no amount of 'solved examples' would help. It can be easily confirmed by checking the questions of the JEE papers of the nineties and early 2000s. For example, the Math paper of 1999 and 2000 was an intellectual treat and no ‘Coaching’ could have 'trained' someone to solve them unless the student was bright. Even if we agree that there is some strong pattern in the JEE examination, it is much more difficult to decode than in the board examinations. Unlike IITs which rely on world class original texts such as 'Resnick Halliday, Morrison & Boyd and SL Loney' (and their derivatives which are given in the IIT Coachings) to decode that pattern, some cheap guides exist for board examinations. Even a cursory look at these books would appall someone forget learning something from them.

Position Point - 6

JEE is an examination which only checks the mathematical skills of a person and does not focus on the holistic skills of a person.

Each field demands specific skills and the entrance examination should focus on the same. An institution for music should not select students based on their ability to play football. Engineering education heavily requires Mathematics and hence a good engineering examination should test for the ability to solve original mathematical problems. Also for admission into an IIT there is a minimum score requirement in Boards Examination which implies that they more than sufficiently pass the minimum requirement in other subjects. Why should the rank of a JEE aspirant be decided on the mastery of Shakespearean plays if an English Literature graduate is not checked for the knowledge of ‘Theory of Relativity’?

Position Point - 7

JEE has failed to select the right kind of students which can be seen from the fact that not even a single Nobel Prize has been won by an IITian
IITs are primarily an engineering institution while Nobel Prizes are given for Peace, Literature, Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Economics. Out of these 6 disciplines, departments for only Physics and Chemistry exist in IITs which primarily cater to teaching the basic subject to the engineering students. It is ludicrous to expect Mechanical Engineers or Chemical Engineers to do that good in subjects which they have not graduated in. For example, Sachin Tendulkar cannot be blamed for not winning a gold medal in Olympics for his country. Most Nobel Prize around the World are won by people with PhD degrees and if Nobel Prize is the goal then the Government should address the quality of PhD scholars in IITs and other institutions such as IISc. This has no relevance whatsoever to JEE examination. Merging AIEEE with JEE will under no circumstance address this issue since AIEEE has also not produced any Nobel Prize Winner. There in an existing university system in India which caters to Sciences – How many Nobel prizes have been won by graduates from the colleges which have a so called better selection criteria?

Position Point - 8

US University system is more successful than India so selection system of US should be emulated in India as well.

There is no doubt that US university system is more successful than IITs but reasons for the same should be found rather than cherry picking things out of that system. It has been argued by many that IITs have been primarily successful because they select the brightest students. Critics say that IITs take good students and turn them into good engineers. If it is the ‘selection of the brightest’ which gives an edge to the IITs then it is inarguable that the selection has been ensured by JEE only. Why meddle with a system that is working well?

There may be some truth in the previous statement about IITs and it also cannot be denied that IITs don’t stand in front of the US counterparts in terms of funds, infrastructure and other facilities. If IITs have to be improved, good qualities of the US system should be adapted while retaining the good attributes of IITs. Will the government ensure absolute autonomy to IITs which all the successful US universities enjoy?

The strength of the US universities is in their post graduate and research programs while IITs are primarily known for their undergraduate programs. In fact the undergraduate program of IITs is comparable to the best in the world. Our focus should be to improve the research output of IITs and not in unnecessarily modifying the part which is already successful.

If a comparison is done based on the substance of the examination, then also the subjective JEE fares better than all the other entrance examinations. JEE in its subjective form was very similar to the Olympiads which are the most respected examinations all over the world.

It should be noted that until 2002, apart from the JEE, there was a SAT based entrance to IITs. Students who came through the JEE route used to considerably outperform the students who came through the SAT route. This led to the scheme being discontinued by the Central IIT Council from 2003. It is therefore surprising to see that in the process of improving the existing IIT system, we want to remove things which form the backbone of the system.

Position Point - 9

The new system would be fair to the people who don’t have the access to the good educational facilities available in the metros.

It is an illusion that successful candidates in IITs come from Metros and students from small towns fail to make into IITs. A simple demographic survey would show that small towns are represented in big numbers in IITs. Compare this with colleges like St. Stephens and LSR which have most of the students drawn from metro cities and belong to the higher income group. There have been cases in the past when IITJEE was topped by students from village background and coming from uneducated families.
This is the beauty of JEE! The reason is that good school education is a costly affair which can’t be afforded by economically weaker students and at times there are barriers of social status attached to some very famous schools. On the contrary, JEE offers a considerably level playing field where a student can pass the examination without even spending a single penny. ‘Coaching’ may help but they are not mandatory to pass as reflected by many students in the past. In fact efforts should be done that selection process of IITs do not disadvantage a student based on his lack of finances and this can be done by designing an examination which checks for ‘raw intelligence’ rather than asking information which can be ‘trained’ by the expensive ‘Coaching’. This was the case with the JEEs of nineties which coincided with the glorious days of IITs.

The ‘Coaching’ for JEE may be very expensive and it is a dangerous trend but a student who does really well in the entrance examination of these ‘Coaching’, gets a complete waiver in the fees. Would the ‘elite’ schools of India admit an exceptionally bright student from a village without taking the fees? In fact such a student would be ridiculed for the inability of speaking proper English and lack of proper etiquettes. There is no such class differentiator in JEE as intelligence is not a property of some class, caste or religion.

More than anything, state boards don’t have the proper infrastructure and it is very common that the marks obtained in the examination are not a true reflection of the knowledge of the student. At times copies are checked by incompetent and unwilling teachers and the anomalies exist to the extent that people are marked absent in an examination which they attended. The books prescribed in the state boards are sub-standard and it is only because of the JEE examination that students from small towns get exposed to international standard books.

It is also impossible to compare marks obtained in one board with that of the other. Various attempts have been done in the past but none of them has been successful. BITS Pilani which was the early proponent of using Board examination results did this system away in 2005. Why does the Government want IITs to adapt something which has failed elsewhere in India? In fact it would be more important for the Government to improve the dismal state of schools in the interiors of the country rather than meddling with a system which has done significantly better than others.

Position Point - 10

Statisticians have found formulae to normalize scores from each board and it would ensure that the proposed selection system would be fair to all.

Theory rarely accounts for possible anomalies, and such an attempt will only create an uneven playing ground. Statistics is based on historical trends and it fails miserably if that trend is susceptible to modification. For example, based on the history of the complexity of examination, a weight is given to a state board. Knowing that the weight is based on the history, the board may relax the examination (relative to the history) to give an advantage to its students. In statistical terms, the weights would be a lag indicator rather than a lead indicator of the reality. To avoid this, if only the recent exam results are used to give the weight, it would be incorrect from the basic principles of statistics. A single observation can have random effects embedded (for example the examination was tough still the students did well that year) which would be ignored by such method. Statistics is required when there is a difficulty in estimating from the true ‘Population’. If a true comparison can be done based on a single examination, why do we want to complicate things by using these complex measures? Especially the failure of models in the recent economic crisis has categorically stated that it is extremely difficult to even correctly predict the ‘confidence intervals’ forget the ‘point estimates’. Why do we want to expose the students on random chances when even a single mark causes displacement of several hundred ranks? In the want of good alternatives to IITs in the country, wouldn’t it be a grave injustice if a student fails because of some anomaly of the statistical method. Who gives us the right to play roulette with the merit of this country?
__________________________
From: Chandra Jain
Date: Wed, 8 Feb 2012 22:43:32 +0530

It is a very nice document put together by the Alumni(Why dont they reveal themselves & claim all trhe accolades?).

My compliments to the authors for a job well done. Nobody commissioned them to do the job - it is their interest & passion for the IITs that has inspired them for this great effort.

Chandra k Jain
India 
___________________________
From: Bhamy Shenoy IITM
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2012 05:55:16 +0530

Dear Akshat,

My appreciation for you and your friends for putting together a well articulated position paper on JEE. But I respectfully disagree with some of your positions.

The present JEE is extremely exclusive and those in rural or urban areas whose parents cannot afford to pay for coaching does not stand a chance today. You write that the present IIT student profile will show that it includes students from all strata (rich and middle vs poor, rural/urban, first generation vs children of professional parents etc). I challenge it. Of course getting admission to even an ordinary professional college today is next to impossible for children from rural areas who attend government schools. When such is the case, children of the middle class who attend a second rate private schools stand absolutely no chance to get admission into IITs.

The present educational system does not allow students to learn. Students are not allowed to ask questions. This is true not only those who aspire for IITs (by attending coaching classes) but also other professional colleges. In 60s and 70s, bright students never took coaching/tuition classes. Today it is just the opposite. Colleges are only for registration purpose and not for studies. JEE coaching classes are only scoring higher marks.

You also claim that no statistical tools cannot standardize the scores of different school boards. It may be true. However one can overcome it by giving marks based on percentiles. You are correct in your conclusion that most state board exams are rote based. You also agree that JEE today has gone to the other extreme where students are coached only to score high on JEE. Neither are the right way to produce students who are capable of critical thinking. We need a complete reform of the education system. Since it may take many years if not generations, dropping coaching oriented JEE and replacing with two or three step entrance pr ogram for IITs would be better.

First step - selecting based on state board/CBSC/ICSE test scores.

Second step - IITs to administer SAT type of tests which does not require extensive coaching and tests students inherent capabilities.

Third step - Based on the ranks of the first two, students will be invited for an interview and based on the performance in the interview they will be admitted. During the interview students will have a chance to show their ability to communicate, extra curricular activities, special talents in music, sports, leadership qualities, projects undertaken to help the society etc. interview being subjective, need not carry much weight. But the fact that there is interview will bring about transformational changes. Today there is only one goal which is to score high on JEE irrespective of one knows the subject or not.

In conclusion we need a revolution to transform our educational system You may like to read my article, titled "Million Mutinies to Revolutionize Indian Education System at http://industrialeconomist.com/cover-story.htm). May be we should start with JEE and show the way.

regards
Bhamy Shenoy
65 IITM B Tech. 
_____________________________
From: T S Natarajan IITM
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2012 07:59:08 +0530 (IST)

Dear friends,
I have the following suggestions. I had proposed this model to IITM
Director as well as to Dr T Ramasamy.

Here it is:

The Model proposed :
National level single Entrance test – Objective type- concept oriented and not fully problem oriented – similar to GRE, SAT etc., - on Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Language of choice (English, Hindi [at least], .) (they have to only pass a minimum in the language test).

This Single test can be Computer administered and conducted more than once in a year. Students can choose a day and slot suitable to him/her ( say, during December-January OR April-May every year). Can be administered as Two exams –


Exam I: Maths Physics & Chemistry

Exam-II: Biology, Language

Private Engineering colleges, all Medical colleges, State owned Engineering colleges, (except IITs ISERS and NITs ) can offer admissions based on rank/marks of students scored in this national Entrance Test and Board Exam ( on some formula, say, 50% of each) to those who apply to their institution.

For admissions to IITs, NITs, ISERs and Central Govt Technical institutions:

Top 75,000 from this National Entrance Test OR National or International Olympiad winners (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Astronomy, etc.) OR top 1% of students from any Board exam if they can bring a valid certificate to that effect (the onus is on the student) - will become eligible to write the second level JEE- Subjective problem oriented examination. This will be

conducted by the IITs during the Last Sunday of May every year as was done a few years back.

Needless to add that this system will bring out really, really bright kids who perform well consistently and they can be offered admissions into any of the centrally administered institutions like the IITs ISERs and NITs.

Further, these exams will only help students to get admission into a particular IIT and not any branch. The branch will be allotted on the basis of JEE marks and CGPA of first two semesters. If necessary we can even permit transfers across IITs! It is all one system anyway!
Why this model:

Even to filter water – we need to first remove large suspended impurities- then attack Bacteria and other microscopic impurities. For admission to IITs and other Centres of Excellence- we must have two levels of examinations. The first one to remove the uninspired, and those who write due to external pressures (parental, etc).

National Entrance Test is more a Standards examination to normalize the variations among the different boards (that was the idea of the forefathers of JEE system). This will enable students to assess themselves at the all India level.

The brand name IITs have gained over the years is due to the high levels of expectations set for the JEE exams over the last 40 to 50 years. Only recently we have to move to the single objective type examination ( that too because of the logistics involved in conducting exams for 400,000 students all over India).

From the objective type there is no way for us to understand why a student has selected a particular answer from the choices given. It might be just guessing or after a careful analysis, God only knows! Since it has to be machine evaluated to speed up the process, there is no choice.

To discourage guessing, we introduce negative marking which is cruel to say the least! If you get the answer right you get 3 marks and if you had guessed it wrong you get -1 mark.

This 4 marks gap for each question ( in many of the sections) plays havoc when each single mark may mean drop in your ranking by several numbers! We as adults guess at every stage in life but not allow the youngsters at the threshold of their life to guess an answer and what is worse, we even punish them for guessing! This is not acceptable. As a matter of fact it is the bright students who will hazard a guess most of the time due to over confidence and might score, purely because of this negative marking, less than a modest student who will play safe with only sure answers!

The argument based on the survey that ‘those who do well in the Board exams only perform well in IITs’ also does not hold water and justify doing away with JEE. After all we are not worried about very bright students and very bad students. The former will get through and the latter will fail in any number of exams you conduct!

The worry is about the large population of above average students in a country like India! We do not know where to exactly draw the cutoff line! The line can not be drawn based on a single exam for them since if one does not perform on that particular date he/she will lose out a good chance. Consistency must be

the criteria to select for such Institutions of excellence. So if the candidate shows good performance in an all India objective test as well as a subjective problem oriented exam (JEE) then he/she must certainly be good. Since the number who qualify to the second level in this proposed scheme is restricted to about 100,000 it may not be a big issue conducting a subjective written exam and correcting it in record time with the faculty from so many IITs now in existence.

As many observed, it is the training that the students undergo for 2 or 3 years in parallel sometimes outside their school times which is able to launch them well in their career later more than the actual training they get from these engineering institutions (it is a bit exaggerated statement though!). This is because of

the sorry state that our school education is at present. Not many talk about that reform. After 12 years of schooling, if a student has to undergo another parallel coaching to write an exam like JEE which tests their understanding and concepts, that speaks volumes about our school standards.

We should not be over obsessed with the coaching culture! It is a scoio-economic trend and can not be easily altered. Since both the parents earn these days they are ready to spend more towards the future of their kids and coaching is something that promises their entry into such premier institutions, and the parents are ready to venture. Now-a-days even at primary levels we have coaching culture! In those days if some one says he is going for tuition it was a stigma and people thought that the student was dull hence he must be sent for additional coaching. But now parents boast that their wards are going for coaching some popular centres in

Hyderabad or Kota with such a great pride!

T S Natarajan , Department of Physics, IIT Madras ( formerly Chairman JEE 2010).
____________________________

From: Bhamy Shenoy IITM 
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2012 10:02:35 +0530

Dear Dr. Natarajan,

there are many similarities between your model and what I have suggested.


Both of us agree that the current JEE needs to be replaced.
Bhamy
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From: Ravikumar Bhaskaran IITKgp
Date: Wed, 8 Feb 2012 20:29:56 -0800 (PST)

I feel that we are using the terms " GRE, SAT etc " rather loosely.

GRE is for admissions to graduate schools and so we may probably leave it aside when we are talking about admissions to the first degree programme.

SAT is a standardized "reasoning test" used for admission to most American colleges and has sections in critical reading, mathematics and writing. I do not think that it has any component in sciences.

There is yet another test used for college admissions in the USA called ACT which is curriculum based and supposed to be directly related to what students have learned in high school courses in English, reading, mathematics, and science.

Whatever this may be, now that an opportunity has come to rethink the shape of an examination for admissions to Engineering Institutions, including the IITs, I feel that it is extremely important to have an "Engineering Aptitude Test".

It is for the experts to decide what its content should be.
The IIT-JEE no doubt nets in very bright students to the IITs but many of them are getting into the IITs because of societal pressures and their real interests in terms of a post degree career lies elsewhere. Many a student just goes through the B.Tech.course as if it is a bitter pill to swallow and then migrate to the profession of their choice as soon as possible. Many of them are just not interested in a career in engineering or technology for which they are being prepared by their distinguished faculty and extraordinary facilties at the IITs. No doubt absence of any effort by the IITs to present to the students the challenges and the excitement of engineering careers to their students and the fact that today the students decide, in their wisdom, the companies that should be given preference to recruit from the campuses ( again decided by societal pressures, helped by the media hype on salaries obtained by students at IITs) adds to the problem. And please, why do we, like politicians, say "English and at least Hindi!". Since instruction at the IITs and most engineering colleges will be in English, better have either only English. However politicians may not allow that and so better not insist on language as a part of the test. In, my view, therefore, the common entrance examination should be an "Engineering Aptitude Test".

The comments that I have on the other points in the mail below are not significant, except the one on the para "Further, these exams will only help students to get admission into a particular IIT and not any branch. The branch will be allotted on the basis of JEE marks and CGPA of first two semesters. If necessary we can even permit transfers across IITs! It is all one system anyway!".

Will this work! It will not. I wonder how many of us would accept this proposition if our own child is seeking admission to the IIT. How many of the prospective student would accept this proposition? One looks at both - the Institute as well as the branch- when trying for admissions. Some may compromise on the branch, if very particular on the Institute and some may compromise on the Institute if looking for a specific branch!
-RB
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From: T S Natarajan
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2012 17:14:59 +0530 (IST)


Dear Dr Ravikumar Bhaskaran,

Thanks for your response.

A lot of people have been asking for an Aptitude test but most persons do not know how effective can it be designed.

The simplest thing would be to test the young kids in subjects they have
been taught for several years in their schools by posing creative problems
which they have not encountered in their text books and elsewhere. This is
what JEE is doing year after year. Most of the questions are intelligently
generated by professors working full time in a group using all their
ingenuity. I do not find anything wrong in this system. It is, after all,
a time tested system.

After B Tech if a guy wants to pursue Management or setup a company or whatever, why not! After all any education system broadly provides an avenue for self discovery.

If a student can discover himself and identify what he is good at the end of the course, then the education given to him has been fruitful.

So I still feel instead of spending time in designing aptitude tests for a group so large as 400,000, we must attempt to test their ability to grasp and apply their knowledge acquired to new situations and thereby prove that they can face new and unknown challenges in the future. It certainly would be a better proposition. After all no teacher can teach a student completely to enable him to face the challenges of the future because we ourselves do not know what those future challenges would be! We can only prepare then to the task. We can only teach them how to learn!

Regards
TSN
IITM
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From: Chandra Jain
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2012 22:54:53 +0530

There has been a talk of an Aptitude Test for some time to counter the effect of the Coaching Institutes on JEE as well as to reduce the stress on students.

Can somebody throw some light on reliable & scientifically proven Aptitude Tests for Engineering?

If one exists, it can be introduced right away alongwith the JEE. In fact JEE itself was believed to be an aptitude test as it tests the fundamentals in PCM which is believed to be the fundamental of engg. anyway. Maybe some kind of workshop-based tests, mechano-based tests, electrical-circuitry assembly tests etc to test imagination & manual dexterity etc can be developed but such tests have to be easy to use on a mass scale, be objective, not subject to the examiner's whim & fancy etc. Until we come up with some such thing, our best bet is JEE - improve it in whatever way possible.

There is no way one can outlaw Coaching centers - & in any case, why are we against them?

I dont see much in the argument that they teach you 'pattern recognition' but no fundas for a better score. JEE is all about the fundamentals & with all the pattern recognition & problem solving skills they impart, it is not possible to score big at JEE without sound fundamentals.

The Coaching centers are imparting EDUCATION in a free market scenario - perhaps we may put a curb on the fee they charge - but they are a fact of life & will continue to exist - with or without Aptitude Tests, JEE, AIEEE or whatever other form of testing one may devise. could we not look at Coaching Institutes as supplemental tuition centers which fill-in the gap that is left by rote-learning in schools? We should hear more on this from fresh students going thru the experience.

Standardization of the 12th board results of different states is just not possible - there is no workable mechanism to ensure selection across different boards - giving any weightage to board results would be a meaningless exercise & is fraught with danger.

JEE has withstood the test of time in terms of integrity - we have heard about the faults in papers & need for improvements but it is rarely that the Integrity has been compromised. Even for this one reason, JEE with its management structure with IITs, must remain the route for entrance to IITs- adopt it for admission to all engg colleges, if desired by the state Education boards & the NITs, but dont abandon it for the IITs.

Chandra k Jain
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From: Bhamy Shenoy IITM
Date: Fri, 10 Feb 2012 00:13:34 +0530

Ravikumar ended up his support for the continuation of the current JEE by suggesting that "we can only teach them how to learn". Chandra's main points against the dropping of the JEE is that it has high integrity, coaching classes is not a big problem since they do impart pattern recognition, and there are no standardize tests for assessing engineering aptitude.
Actually it is the coaching class environment which has removed any critical thinking aspect of learning experiment. They do impart no doubt the basic fundamentals of PCM. But that does not amount to true education. 

Students should enjoy being in the school where they should be allowed to dream. At least the schooling system is supposed to impart such true education. Unfortunately none of our schools promote such true education. On the other hand the purpose of coaching is not imparting true education. It is just to help the students to score high in JEE. This has fundamentally altered the entire education environment in the country. We also have the same kind of problem of tuition system today for those seeking admissions to other professional colleges.

Bhamy