The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has issued a press release about the results of the new, improvedTM Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) conducted in April 2006 by the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). It's clear that the Ministry wants a positive spin on the outcome, but it's equally clear that a lot of the news is not all that great. Let's take a look:
Bias against first-timers:
The number of candidates qualified in their first attempt is 2,761, which is 43.50 per cent of the total qualified candidates. This proportion is significantly greater than the corresponding value (28.49 per cent) in JEE-2005. The high proportion of first timers reflects the success of the changed pattern of examination in JEE-2006 in getting more number of students who have been equally good performer in qualifying examination (10+2). Hence, the main purpose of introducing a new examination pattern emphasizing on the importance of school education has been successfully fulfilled. ...
Bias against rural students:
The proportion of successful candidates belonging to towns and villages has also increased to 30.67 per cent [1943 students were from towns (1328) and villages (615), while 4400 were from cities], as compared to 28.02 per cent in JEE-2005 while the percentage has decreased in case of cities from 71.98 per cent in JEE-2005 to 69.37 per cent in JEE-2006. The proportional increase in the percentage from smaller towns further emphasize the success of the new JEE system and indicate reduced dependence on coaching centers which the candidates from town and village have no access to.
Bias against girls:
The application fee for female candidates was half (Rs.300/-) of the fees for male candidates (Rs.600/-). In this respect the new JEE system has also ensured a higher participation of female candidates as evident from the total number of registered female candidates of 58,997 in JEE-2006 as compared to 29,291 in JEE-2005. However, there is only marginal increase in successful female candidates as compared to JEE-2005.
Clearly, there has been significant 'progress' only in the share of seats that went to the first-timers. Progress made by non-urban students is small, but it's at least in the right direction. In the girls' share of IIT seats, the progress may even be deemed 'negative', since their number increased only marginally in spite of a near-doubling in the number of girls who applied for (and presumably, took) the JEE.
The JEE still has a long way to go before it can be held up as an ideal for the other entrance exams to emulate; right now, I would view it only as a deeply flawed exam with in-built biases against girls, first-timers and the rural and the poor.
IMHO, IITs should strive to convert JEE into an exam that fulfills -- at the least -- two primary requirements: (a) It should be a standardizing exam, in the sense that it should allow one to compare the relative levels of different school board exams, (b) it should be a standardized exam, in the sense that its results are less noisy and more predictable. Better yet, the IITs should merge it with AIEEE conducted by CBSE, and seek to make that unified exam conform to these two requirements.
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Let me list a few related posts for future reference: