Wow. Just wow!
The director and the dean of IIT-Madras have called for radical changes in the JEE, saying that the coaching institutes were enabling many among the less-than-best students to crack the test and keeping girls from qualifying.
"You may not be able to do away with the JEE but I am wondering if we should be conducting an examination for 3,00,00 aspirants and selecting just 5,000. Instead, we must evolve a system where only the top 1% of students from different state boards and CBSE are permitted to appear for the JEE," [Prof. M.S. Ananth, Director, IIT-M] said.
"One of the reasons for the poor intake of girls in the flagship BTech programme is that parents don't send daughters for coaching classes. The best way to increase the intake of girls is to have direct admissions," [Prof. Idichandy, Dean of Student Affairs, IIT-M] said.
[Prof. Ananth] said, by attending the IIT coaching classes, students were learning a wrong lesson that the ends justify the means. "They (students) think there is nothing wrong in missing school to attend coaching. But the student does not realize his real loss."
Bravo! I am so glad to see the some IITs professors finally articulating the need to select students based on their own ideas of what an IIT education should be about, and of what an IIT student should be like. And I certainly applaud Prof. Idichandy for admitting the gross gender inequity that's built into the current JEE system.
Over the years, with their over-reliance on JEE (an exam that coaching centers have mastered how to game), the IITs had ceded control of their most important input to the coaching centers. It is time they took that control back. I hope the ideas from Prof. Ananth and Prof. Idichandy (and other such ideas from other institutions) will be debated vigorously, and I hope it will result in a saner admission process that's consistent with the IITs mandate and goals (as defined by themselves).
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I can't resist throwing in my two-cents: I wish the IITs would go for a policy of using multiple inputs for selecting their students: an entrance exam (whose primary purpose is to standardize the curriculum/knowledge across our diverse education boards), makrs (or percentile scores) in board exams, achievements in State and National Olympiads in Math, Physics and Chemistry Olympiads. [Are there others?]
Ranking is an issue only because of the current fetish with a pecking order, which is used for allocating seats. This can be done away with, if the policy is changed to one in which students are assigned to individual departments at the end of the second (or, even better, third) semester, based on their performance after they get into the IITs.
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At the end of the ToI article, Ashok Misra, Director, IIT-B, expresses his concerns about going for disruptive, big bang changes in admission procedures. If this is a concern, the IITs can try an experiment during the next two or three years in which, entry is guaranteed for all State level Olympiad medal winners, and also for students in the top x percentile (where x is in the range of 0.05 to 0.1) in each Board Exam. This should get about 1000 to 2000 students coming in through the non-JEE route. A rigorous study of these students' relative performance vis-a-vis the JEE entrants should yield metrics that can be used for determining the relative weights to be assigned to different measures of student achievement.
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Thanks to Yogesh Upadhyaya for the e-mail alert.