But, the implementation of the proposed test, which seeks to merge IIT-JEE (Joint Entrance Examination for admission to IITs) and AIEEE (All India Engineering Entrance Examination), has encountered a major roadblock as a section of the faculty, students and alumni of the IITs are up in arms against the examination format, citing several lacunae.
The joint entrance examination proposal has its genesis in the ‘in-principle’ approval accorded to it by the Council of IITs in its meeting held on September 14 last year.
This was based on the T Ramasami Committee report, which recommended a common national examination with weightage to marks obtained in the state board exams, and normalised on the basis of percentile formula developed by the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata.
Though many IIT faculty members and alumni did not favour a common test, an opinion poll on the Ramasami report, conducted through the Central Government’s portal last year, saw 85 per cent of the participants favouring the reforms in the current entrance test system, while 73 per cent supported holding a national test like the scholastic aptitude test conducted in the United States.
IIT faculty came up with differing views on the proposed normalisation of the Board marks through percentile formula, weightage to be given to the Board examination, eligibility criteria, methodology of selection and the year of introduction of the proposed test.
A faculty member of IIT-Kanpur contended that the one nation one test would put rural children at a disadvantage as it was bound to have elements of the existing JEE that tests conceptual rigour. Rural students are not exposed to the kind of rigour needed to understand fundamental principles in any domain. However, a majority of the respondents (66 per cent), who participated in the opinion poll, had favoured giving weightage to overall and consistent performance in examinations of school boards.
All the states had consented to the proposed common test, and many, including Maharashtra and Gujarat, expressed their eagerness to adopt it in the technical institutions coming under their jurisdiction.
Even as the government was giving a final shape to the proposed reforms in February this year, the Senates of the various IITs reviewed the proposal between April 25 and May 5.
Of the seven old IITs, the Senates of IIT Guwahati, Kharagpur, Madras and Roorkee supported the proposed joint entrance examination. IIT Bombay proposed to retain the present system “with minor modifications”, while IIT Kanpur’s Senate wanted “substantial modification”, an HRD Ministry official told Deccan Herald.
The views of the IIT Senates were placed before the IIT Council held on May 12, and again at the joint meeting of the Council with NITs and IIITs on May 28.
The Council in its May 12 meeting observed: “By and large, the middle ground of opinions expressed by IIT Senates recommend that the Class XII Board results along with the National Test (Mains) be considered as screening or gating with the National Test (Advanced level) being solely used for ranking purposes for admission to undergraduate programmes.”
It also took note of the proposals of some of the Senates that a limited number of candidates (about five times the number of seats for admission in the IIT system) from the screening be considered eligible to appear in the Advanced test to be conducted by the IITs. It further agreed that the details of the Advanced test would be finalised in due course of time through discussion among the IITs so that it could be implemented from the year 2014.
Subsequently, the members of the Council decided to adopt the two-part joint entrance examination to be held on the same day, from year 2013.
Under this two-tier selection procedure, the Council allowed the IITs to first assess candidates on the basis of the JEE Main and their Class XII marks normalised on percentile basis, giving equal weightage to both, and screen a fixed number of students. The Council made it clear that the ranking for admission to undergraduate programmes in IITs would be based entirely on the performance in JEE-Advanced by the screened candidates.
But for other Centrally funded technical institutions (CFTIs), it was decided that they would continue to be governed by the proposed policy of ranking based on 40 per cent weightage to Class XII Board marks, 30 per cent weightage to performance in JEE-Mains and another 30 per cent weightage for performance in JEE-Advanced.
The Council decided that both JEE-Main and JEE-Advanced tests would be objective and multiple choice type. It was agreed that the Joint Admission Board (JAB) of the IIT system would have “complete control” over the academic components of the test such as paper setting, evaluation and preparation of the merit list, among others, while the CBSE will provide the administrative and logistic support for the conduct of examination across the country.
But, this did not convince opponents of the common test. The Council’s decision was dubbed as an “attack on the autonomy” of IITs by their alumni association. The All India IIT Faculty Federation has sought that the government restore IITs’ autonomy by “officially” seeking ratification or acceptance from the various IIT Senates on the joint entrance examination finalised by IIT Council.
The Senate of IIT-Kanpur has raised a banner of revolt against the Council’s decision and even passed a resolution to hold its own examination for admissions to the institution’s under graduate programmes in 2013.
The Senate authorised the Institute’s director to set up a committee in consultation with the dean of academics for finalising the modalities of the entrance examination. The committee, to the extent possible, shall coordinate with other IITs to conduct the test jointly. The resolution passed by the Senate, however, is subject to approval by the Board of Governors of the IIT before it comes into effect, as per the Institute of Technology Act, 1961.
The IIT Alumni Association has threatened to move court against the IIT Council decision.
Association president Somnath Bharti contended that under the IT Act, the IIT Council can only advice or recommend. It is the Senate of each IIT which has powers to promulgate ordinance relating to various matters, including admissions, which, of course, has to be approved by the Board of Governors.
HRD Ministry officials, however, counter the argument stating that the IIT Council can lay down policy under the IT Act in “matters of common interest”, and issue of admissions to the IITs is a matter of common interest. “IIT Council is the highest decision making body of the IITs,” an official said.