Education ministers and officials from various States will meet in New Delhi on Wednesday to decide whether to adopt the common aptitude-cum-advanced knowledge test proposed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development for admission to engineering institutions in their respective States.
The test proposes to replace the IIT Joint Entrance Examination and the All India Engineering Entrance Examination and other entrance tests of engineering institutions affiliated to the Central Government, in 2013.
Currently, various state boards and institutions, including the IITs, conduct at least 150 entrance exams every year. As per the proposal, 40 percent weightage during the admission process will be based on the student's ‘percentile rank' in Class XII examination and 60 percent on the score in the test that will most likely have questions on aptitude, logical and critical reasoning, English, and science subjects.
“Directors of all 42 school boards have agreed to comply by this test, which would require them to release results in the computerised format by June every year. This would not only reduce the dependence of students on coaching classes but also encourage them to focus more on Class XI and Class XII syllabus in schools,” says former Anna University vice-chancellor M. Anandakrishnan, now the chairman of IIT-Kanpur and part of the IIT governing council.
He says a tested and verified formula designed by Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata will be applied to school board results to normalise the evaluation which will convert his percentage of marks into a percentile.
But Tamil Nadu, say sources, is unlikely to agree to the test, for it was just six years ago that it scrapped the entrance exam to professional courses to enable more students from rural background join engineering education. But the move has not only created apprehensions among students who have already started their JEE preparations a year ago, but also among coaching institutes who think they will have to revamp their course structures now.
K. Ravi, a city-based JEE trainer, says: “The normalisation will only take care of the ranks, but on which board syllabus will the questions be based? If they are too easy, it will be a cakewalk for CBSE students, and if they are very tough, again, the CBSE students would benefit.”
This seeming paradox is not all, says Jayaprakash Gandhi, an education consultant: “We had nearly 3,000 students from the State Board getting full marks in maths last year, and 160 scoring full marks in science subjects. The board exams need to be revamped to test the subject knowledge of the student and not just his memory skills."
“While students with good marks in board exams will still have to do well in the test to get into IIT and a branch of their choice, the ones with relatively less marks in school can still make it to the IITs by focusing on the test,” says R. Prabhu, professor, Anna University. The test, he says, will help improve results of first year engineering students: as of now, only 40 percent of them clear all papers.
But the emphasis on aptitude questions, as proposed in the test, may restrict the need to delve further into the subject, say some teachers. Gita Prabhu of AIMS Education feels that not every one who undergoes JEE coaching actually does so rigorously.
“Many go for foundation courses to get the approach to problem-solving right. Teachers in many State Board schools cannot manage without ‘worked out' solutions, and the students have no choice but to depend on coaching classes,” she said.