“ 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

Search This Blog

"Do you support the effort of Government of India to introduce a Common Engineering Entrance Examination scrapping IIT-JEE which would eventually dilute the IIT Brand?"

Friday, June 15, 2012

303 - IITs not for social engineering - HINDU BUSINESS LINE

IITs not for social engineering


The HRD Minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, is trying to replicate the US SAT without trying to understand the reality underlying the system.

The IITs have won recognition through one of the most ruthlessly competitive selection systems. Fairness or unfairness has nothing to do with it.
Imagine the furore if the Indian cricket team was to be picked on the basis of who can run 400 m the fastest!

An ability to sprint fast is undoubtedly required to play any competitive field sport, but that alone, as anyone with even nodding familiarity with the game will tell you, is not enough to turn one into a cricketer.

Yet, the Union Human Resources Development Minister, Mr Kapil Sibal's bullying persistence in ramming through his pet ‘single entrance test' plan for all engineering and science courses in the country —including those offered by the elite Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) — is based on just such quixotic reasoning.

For a self-declared democrat and someone who is dependent on winning elections in order to hold the office which gives him the power to take such decisions — which necessarily implies at least a modicum of people skills — 

Mr Sibal has shown a remarkable ability to not listen to the public.

He has turned a blind eye to the logic advanced by those opposing the move and simply shut out the chorus of voices raised in opposition from stakeholders one would have thought had an equal, if not greater say in such a decision — the students themselves, their parents, the IIT faculty, the worthies who administer them, distinguished alumni and even industry, which ultimately employs the output of the IITs.

Still multiple tests

On the face of it, the plan ticks all the right emotional boxes. Mr Sibal says the move is aimed at reducing the burden of multiple entrance tests on the student, something which no one has any quarrel with. Then come the twists in the tale.

The test will be one, but 50 per cent weight will be given to the 12th standard examinations. Which means that we already have multiple exams, not one. 

Then there will be a second test — an ‘advanced' one — for entry into the IITs itself. Presumably, there might be similar advanced tests for those wanting to do science, say. So we have a multiplicity of tests.

There will be quite another test for those wanting to do medicine, for example, and yet another ‘advanced' test for those wanting to do medicine in the IIT-equivalent medical institutes such as AIIMS or the PGMER in Chandigarh (since Mr Sibal's writ does not run in the Health Ministry, which administers the medical tests). There is yet another test for those wanting to do law, and so on.

It is not inconceivable that the same student might want to take a shot at all three. At 17 or 18 — the age when students complete their 12th standard — they are still largely unformed buds, with their true potential yet to be explored, leave alone exploited. And given the reality of the lack of quality higher education opportunities in the country, vis-à-vis the quantity of students aspiring for such education, wanting to have chance at one or the other is but natural. So, one exam for engineering is not going to reduce the burden by much.

The real agenda, it appears, is to cloak the degraded and devalued state education board scores with the legitimacy of academic excellence furnished by the IITs. This is akin to killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

The IITs are in a position to be exploited for such purposes precisely because they have managed to sustain an island of excellence amid an ocean of mediocrity.

School-leaving exams

This is not to say that the current system of selecting candidates for IITs is perfect. Far from it. There have been growing murmurs from the IIT faculty itself about the quality of students filtering through the system. A thriving industry has sprung up in coaching and training aspirants to crack the IIT entrance. So you have a growing number of students who have managed to score outstandingly in the entrance exam — by simply familiarising themselves with the pattern of questions — and yet flounder in actual coursework.

There is also considerable ground for questioning the existing board level examination system in the 12{+t}{+h} standard. They have become mere tests of rote learning and memory power, prone to manipulation, illogical marking and political and other interference.

But two wrongs cannot be made into a right by steamrolling a new exam. Mr Sibal's dream is to have a system of collegiate education similar to the US. But the solution is not to introduce a SAT analogue in India and ignore the reality of the system underlying it.

There is also the question of the de-branding of the IITs. The IIT, it can be reasonably argued, is the one sole government-created, government-owned brand which has managed to win global recognition and accolades for quality, consistency and excellence. Hardly anything else sporting a ‘Made in India' label can have the kind of automatic access which an IIT degree gives its holder.

Soft power

The kind of ‘soft power' wielded by IITs extends far beyond the realms of academia. IITs have contributed the cream of managerial talent to India Inc. There is hardly any BSE 100 company which does not boast of IITians in positions of power. More than any other collegiate group, IIT grads have helped script the India success story. Indeed, many distinguished alumni are heading, or have helmed, giant transnational corporations and have, directly or indirectly, helped focus attention on the potential of India and Indians.

That kind of recognition and access was hard won, earned on the back of one of the most ruthlessly competitive selection systems. To now dilute the essence of that system is shooting oneself in the foot. Fairness or unfairness has nothing to do with it. The IITs are about excellence, not social engineering.

School exams are used as a qualifier, even in the US, which Mr Sibal so clearly wants to eliminate. Other systems which have produced excellence — our medical colleges, the IIMs, even the hallowed Indian Administrative Service — use the school or college exam results as a pre-qualifier and rely on their own system to pick the right candidate. Why can't the IITs be allowed to do so as well? Why try to fix something which isn't broken?