School Boards will gain greater importance hereafter. Thanks to JEE.

From this year onwards, aspirants to engineering courses will not be writing the AIEEE and the IIT-JEE. They will instead write a new exam called the JEE which has two parts — Main and Advanced. What is the impact on the people who are involved in the exam and affected by it?

Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT-Madras, says, “JEE Main is a screening exam. This feature of screening was present in the IIT entrance exam several years ago, and is now being re-introduced. There is one more change from the past. Till now, you had to obtain 60 per cent marks (in absolute number of marks with appropriate category-wise relaxation) in your respective school Board in order to qualify for a rank. Now, in order to qualify for admission to IITs, one should be in the rank list of the JEE Advanced, and should also be in top 20th percentile of his/her respective school Board in their respective category.”

He further says, “As far as the IITs are concerned, we have been concerned that students are not hitherto taking school seriously in many Boards. Now, school cannot be ignored. Thus, we now ensure that the incoming students into IITs are from the top 20 per cent of the respective school systems. However, the ranks are still obtained from a single common entrance exam (JEE Adv) in order to ensure a level-playing field. K.S. Balaji, who coaches students for the JEE, feels that it is better that now there is only one exam for many colleges, and hopes that in future, the private colleges will also decide to use this entrance exam. Balaji’s views are reflected by Pranav and his friends, Class XII students of Sankara School. He says, “Those who do well in the JEE will anyway do well in the Boards.” Arvindh Babu adds that it is in the coaching class that they get time to learn concepts, and there is no time for explanations in the school, where the emphasis is on finishing the portions and giving revision exams. Anshul is careful to add, “at least I am not talking about the big coaching centres which focus only on giving tests.”

Sharada has a slightly different view. She says, “The new pattern gives a bit of an edge to those who prepare well for the board exams.” But they all agree that there may be a problem with normalisation of marks across different boards. While people don’t seem to be unduly perturbed by this move of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, there is plenty of food for thought. Says Balaji Sampath, who also teaches through, “I feel the IIT-JEE is something many students opt for in order to prove they are smart... Those who don’t make it go away feeling that they are second best. This is a false impression. While the test can separate the good students from the bad students, it cannot differentiate between students who get, say the second and the thirteenth rank, which contain a bulk of aspirants.”

Whether the future will bring further radical changes into our system is a question that will keep an interested audience engaged.