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Recently IIT Bombay was in the news when the results of the Joint Entrance Exam for all IIT’s were announced. This is probably the last year when only the JEE will determine whether you will get admission to IIT or not. Few weeks ago, the Ministry of Human Resources had proposed a complicated formula for admission, which was a combination of your marks in Junior College (standard 12) and the JEE. It proposed to replace the JEE with one common national entrance exam, to be applicable to all engineering colleges. This sole exam will not be conducted by IIT Professors, but by some other authority, to be decided perhaps by the Ministry.
But before we get deeper into the JEE controversy, back to the IIT Bombay news.(By the way it is called IIT Bombay whose campus is located in Mumbai.) The news was that of the top 100 ranks in JEE, 86 chose IITB as their first choice. There are a total of 15 IIT campuses across the country. This strong preference for IIT-B among the toppers clearly shows its pre-dominance or its brand value if you will. Roughly 500,000 aspirants appear forJEEforlessthan10, 000 seats across 15 campuses. That means the chance of success is less than 2%. Even the best Universities in the USA have success rate of more than 5%, often closer to 10%.This includes Ivy League Universities like Harvard or MIT and Stanford. This skewed ratio of IIT success rate only shows the acute shortage of quality institutions. One of the key ingredients of quality perception of IITs is that they have been seen as genuine meritocracies. More importantly, the JEE which has been conducted for more than 50 years is seen as untainted. No stories of paper leaks, or black market for question papers. Also you can’t get in simply because political links or deep pockets. In 2000, when Professor Suhas Sukhatme was stepping down as Director of IIT-B, he was interviewed by the Times of India. He was asked about some memorable incidents of his five year tenure. He said, Nobody called me for seeking admission for their kid. This terse statement is so telling. It says that not only is the admission process untainted, but nobody even dares to think about subverting it. That was 12 years ago. It is this essential untainted nature of JEE that is in danger of getting subverted by the socalled JEE reform being proposed by the Ministry. Hence the rebellion by various IITs and their refusal to accept ministerial diktat is because they fear not just dilution of standards, but out right abuse, unfairness and decline in quality and brand. Of course, the debate has become murky because the JEE may no longer be the sole determinant of merit. Thousands of aspirants are beating the system through coaching classes. One city in India is the capital of the aspiration business. That is Kota in Rajasthan. The preparation for JEE starts as early as 9 standards, while the stress due to competitive pressure can be destructive. Since only a handful of the coaching class aspirants get into the IITs, for the rest it is a huge cost. The Ministry’s JEE reform proposal was motivated by a desire to reduce the death strangle of coaching classes on young students. But soon it became apparent that the cure was worse than the disease. It is clear that some reform is necessary. We need to rescue students from becoming one dimensional entrance exam robots. We need many many more IIT-type meritocracy oriented institutions. We need liberal student loans. But all of this does not mean that we first kill the gold standard of the JEE. Thanks to the stiff stand of some IITs, some compromise is on hand, which will preserve JEE, at least for a couple of years.
Courtesy: Times of India
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