The move will ease the stress on students, diminish the importance of the entrance test coaching businesses and re-emphasize the importance of class XII board examinations across the country.
After over two years of talks to sort out differences, the human resource development (HRD) ministry, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), and other leading engineering and technology colleges finally struck a compromise on Monday and decided to adopt a common engineering entrance exam beginning 2013.
To be sure, the move will be complete only if all state governments sign onto the deal and bring state-level entrance examinations for engineering institutions under the purview of the common entrance exam. Currently, each state conducts its own entrance examination.
“With complete unanimity, we have now decided to go for the common entrance exam from 2013,” HRD minister Kapil Sibal said after a meeting with the councils of central government-funded technical institutions (CFTIs).
The CFTIs comprise 15 IITs, the Institute of Technology-Banaras Hindu University, the Indian School of Mines at Dhanbad, 30 National Institutes of Technology (NITs), five Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs), architecture schools and several other leading engineering colleges. At least 1.6 million students sit for several tests for admission to these prestigious schools.
As part of the compromise formula, the selection will be based on three tests—the class XII board exam, the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) main exam and the JEE advanced exam. All the CFTIs, except IITs, will give direct weightage to these three sets of examination in the proportion of 40:30:30, respectively.
For IITs, the class XII board exam and JEE main exam will work as a filter to screen students. The top 50,000 students thus screened will be eligible for admission to IITs; their ranking though will be based on the advanced test that is conducted on the same day as the JEE main.
“Based on this all-India JEE ranking, students will get admission in an IIT,” said Gautam Barua, director of IIT Guwahati.
Sibal said that the ministry accepted the demand of IITs that the board exam marks will not have a direct bearing on the selection process and the JEE advanced exam will be completely administered by IITs with technical help from the Central Board of Secondary Education.
“We have accepted their core demand,” Sibal said, adding that though he wanted the board exam to have a direct impact on selection, he did not force the issue in the face of consistent opposition from IITs. “I did not want to say (it), but this is the truth.”
So, how will this work out? There will be two rankings—one for IITs and one for other CFTIs. “So one may not get into IITs, yet has a chance of getting through CFTIs,” said Sanjay Dhande, director of IIT Kanpur.
While the HRD ministry said in a statement that the nature of the IIT advanced exam will be decided by the Joint Admission Board of IITs, Dhande said IITs may adopt a multiple-choice formula for the advanced exam as well.
“Making the advanced exam subjective will need a lot of resources (to verify the papers). Hence, we may make it objective, much more difficult than what it is today and with many more options than just four to evaluate the student’s knowledge base,” he added.
For starters, IITs face a faculty crunch in the range of 20-30%. At the undergraduate level, 15 IITs admit nearly 7,500 students every year after screening nearly 500,000 aspirants.
Sibal said the move will pave the way for a single entrance exam for all engineering colleges in the country and he would take this up with state education ministers and other stakeholders at a high-level meeting on 5-6 June. “We have information that Gujarat, Haryana and Maharashtra are going to adopt this national formula and we hope other states will follow after the education ministers’ meet,” he added.
The minister said that the multiplicity of exams that a student intending to pursue a course in engineering has to appear for, has been a cause for concern.
“The burden imposed on the students in terms of time, payment of examination fees and the stress caused...is tremendous,” Sibal said. Under the proposed system, students can’t disregard the class XII school boards any more. “The coaching factories will now feel the impact.”
Bhagwan Dash, a parent in Bhubaneswar, said that the move seems positive, but it was crucial that state governments accept it.
“One may argue about meritorious students going to national-level engineering and technology schools, but it may not be true always,” he said. “Other reasons, including financial constraints at times, force families to send their kids to quality state-level institutes. One test for all engineering exams will be better.”