Save the JEE

The following article is a Press Release of the IITK FF. I do not claim any rights nor am I associated with any views or opinions expressed in this article. But as an individual I fully support it, which should not be seen as an attempt to coerce any other being to think otherwise.

The Proposed Single Examination for Engineering Admission is Counterproductive, Unilateral, and Arbitrary: IITK Faculty

The examination announced by MHRD is a unilateral decision of IIT Council against the advice and decisions of IIT Kanpur Senate, which has the prerogative of deciding its admission criteria.

The format announced is a piecemeal patch-work with serious academic and organizational lacunae in each of the components of the test. It has the potential of becoming a national disaster if not opposed by all stakeholders at this stage.

While a large number of admission tests is certainly undesirable, a single test on the opposite extreme is even more so as it is likely to lead to much more stress, and it can become unfair to a large number of students because of contingent uncertainties. At least two or three tests at different levels of competition provide a cushioning comfort, necessary for so large and diverse a population of aspirants.

Using school board marks through percentile based normalization, as proposed, is untested, and based on questionable hypotheses. In fact, the procedure has not been fully endorsed even by the expert committee that was consulted for the purpose. Furthermore, making the board marks count numerically will put undesirable stress on fairness of examinations and uniformity of standards across different school boards.

Students are the victims of a bad school system and not its cause.  Also, attributing failure of the schooling system to engineering admission tests is to abrogate the responsibility of improving it, while serious problems such as rise of coaching and lack of quality teachers and institutions continue to remain unaddressed.

For students aspiring to appear in JEE2013, the IIT Council proposal is a breach of trust. Both the processes and content of the new examination will not be clear to them any time soon because work on details has not even been initiated. In no case should any new system be introduced before 2014.

IIT Kanpur had suggested that IIT-JEE be held for a small number of students following a preliminary examination so that a test for truly talented could be designed better than it was possible through a standard MCQ measure. The IIT Council proposal, on the other hand, ranks the top ten thousand students for IITs by merely applying a numerical filter on the results of an examination meant to select an estimated one lakh out of twelve lakh students.  Clearly any such filtering will not work.

The trust that IIT-JEE has earned over the last five decades is due to the continuous evolution of processes and unflinching devotion of the faculty and staff of IITs. Fragmenting the responsibility of conducting the tests is likely to dissuade the IIT faculty from participating. Any test leading to ranking in IIT admissions must be wholly owned by IITs.

IITs have become what they are because they have been allowed to function independently, and set appropriate standards in carrying out their academic responsibilities. The IIT Council proposal, if implemented, will seriously compromise the autonomy so essential for IITs to remain what they are.

As a whole the new format is a retrograde step and reverses the continuous churning within the IIT system to improve its admission process academically. The decision to effect the changes, that too from 2013, against all academic advice, reeks of executive brinkmanship with the sole aim of hogging the limelight for reforms credit.

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