Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kota opposes the proposal to increase Class XII marks

What a surprise!

Let's look at some of the arguments and counterproposals:

Argument 1:

They claimed that raising the cutoff from the current 60 per cent would not reduce the craze for coaching — as the government hopes — and that the institutes would start preparing students for both their IIT and board exams.

Argument 2:

However, they argued, rural students would be hit hard because they are disadvantaged in the board exams — often lacking good laboratories or teachers at their schools — but face a level-playing field in the IIT entrance tests.

IITs are sitting on mountains of data that can clear this up. But we live in an absurd society in which coaching schools make a shameless claim that they are the ones that help level the field for rural students -- even though coaching schools are all located in cities and towns.

I wonder what'll come next: that coaching schools are the poor people's best friends?

Argument 3:

Some coaching centres also argued that a higher board cutoff would raise tricky problems since different boards marked students differently — for instance, the CBSE awarded marks more generously than the Bengal board.

This is not a serious problem. IITs can use a percentile cut-off as a minimum requirement -- and this cut-off can be uniform across boards. A possible objection is to suggest / claim that people in Sate A are inherently inferior to people in State B. This would be an extraordinary (and potentially explosive) claim, and so would also require an extraordinary 'proof'.

This is not quite an argument for anything, but something for the IITs to ponder about:

He said the IITs had been changing the pattern of their entrance exam every year to try and reduce the influence of coaching, but the institutes had survived through research and innovation, evolving strategies that benefited their students.

And, finally, this counter-proposal gives a whole new meaning to chutzpah:

Pramod Bansal of Bansal Classes agreed: “They should retain the Class X exam where a student is free to concentrate only on his school subjects, and not burden them with high scoring in their Class XII boards when their focus is on entrance exams and their future career.”

This too should worry the IITs. The JEE is being framed here -- and I would say, with some justification -- as something that has little to do with school subjects. As something uncorrelated with Class XII performance. As something that takes primacy over board exams.

This is a pretty amazing transformation of an exam whose primary role should have been one of standardization across boards -- just as the role of board exams is to standardize across schools of different kinds (rural, urban, public, private, corporate, franchisee ...)


  1. Anonymous said...

    Repeat a lie a 1000 times and it becomes the truth. That seems to be the motto. I wonder how anyone can glibly assert rural = poor, urban=rich. And, that coaching classes charging a lakh or more as annual fees are going to help the poor, whether urban or rural. Interestingly there are some coaching institutes which are supposed to offer (or claim to offer) free coaching for students securing "very high marks" in their Class X public exam. Even if that is true that is just a miniscule number. What happens to the large number of poor, urban or rural who simply cannot access such coaching classes? What level ground are they talking about? Essentially I see a large majority of the IIT students as robots used to spoonfeeding by the coaching classes and refusing to stretch their thinking. Happy with an average undergraduate performance.

  2. Anonymous said...

    Sibal vs. Bansal --- no matter who wins, we lose. Who will take the initiative and marry off these guys and send them off to a honeymoon so we can relax?

  3. prasun said...

    It's not unusual for boards to make unpredictable errors. I am using anecdotal evidence but I've heard incidents where a person cleared JEE but was unable to join IIT because the CBSE board gave him a 7/100 in physics. State boards (esp in certain states) are another nightmare.

    Would IIT-JEE mandate that all XII boards note percentiles? Another extra expense and source for errors.

    Lastly, would this reduce coaching or increase it (for XII exams - One month special session in Feb! Only 49,999/-!!) ?

  4. Vinod Khare said...

    I am an anecdotal evidence myself. I scored 69/100 in Class XII physics. Ironically the result came out while I was attending the Indian National Physics Olympiad with the top 50 (in physics) Class XII students from all over the country.

    Board exams have HUGE amounts of discrepancy. CBSE itself recognizes this. Our school teachers who were graders for CBSE and had attended their training sessions used to admit that the standard deviation in how grade the same answer sheet is about 10 marks on 100.

  5. Sandeep Palakkal said...

    A nice discussion. I liked the percentile idea, which gives your real position irrespective of your score. But as Prasun says, would it be a source of more errors?

    --Sandeep P

  6. Anonymous said...

    The probability of unpredictable errors in marking Answer sheets should be same for every exam (including JEE).

    On Vinod's argument on standard deviation: same deviation must also be happening in grading JEE answer sheets.

    But, I agree that this would not reduce coaching in any way.

  7. Pratik Ray said...

    Anon @ 6:04.

    Standard deviations, in my opinion, should be significantly less for grading the same JEE answer sheet as opposed to Class XII exams, simply because to a much larger extent, the JEE is about solving problems. Your solution is correct, or it is not.

    Essay type questions in board exams doesnt lead to objective assessment. Many times, the teachers grade the paper on whether the answer written up is "precise" enough according to them or not. This subjectivity is the bane of board exams.

    If they change this pattern to short answer/multiple choice questions and numerical problems, a lot of this can be eliminated. But whether it is desirable to have such a format and not test the students on how they articulate their knowledge is another question all together.

  8. L said...

    The only thing that can close coaching classes is if all parents wake up and see that they are robbing their children of their childhood.Can you believe it, the first time the HSEE exam (entrance to integrated MA at IITM)was ever conducted, when most people had not even heard of it,there were two coaching classes in Chennai coaching for it!

  9. iitmsriram said...

    What standard deviation in multiple evaluation of JEE scripts? JEE is fully multiple choice and machine graded; the scripts are actually graded twice and the scores have to match exactly - so the deviation is ZERO. Of course, in the older hand graded JEE, there was some defined acceptable deviation - I vaguely recall 2% or something like that. If the deviation was more than that, it would go to a third evaluator for resolution.

  10. Anonymous said...

    From personal experience and from the experience of several other IITians over the last two decades,
    a thorough preparation for JEE will
    definitely help in doing well in the board exams, if not in all subjects (languages), definitely in MPC. Personally, the JEE preparation helped me to take the Board exams without a sweat and get 97% in MPC. The only coaching I took was Brilliant's correspondence course and YG File.
    My close friend and senior who took Agrawal's and YG File ended up not only securing the 9th rank in JEE but also topping EAMCET (AP) and getting the 9th rank in Board Exam apart from a gold medal in the Maths Olympiad. I know most of my IIT batchmates across branches had no problem getting more than 85% atleast in MPC in the Board exams. Well, I am talking about the 80s when one had to focus on the concepts to do well in JEE.

  11. Anonymous said...

    Well I am a product of Kota's bansal coaching center and was AIR top 50. I have seen lot of students during my IIT and PhD (in US) days. To be honest I have seen lot of non IITians who would have cracked IIT JEE had they availed the coaching. I think to stop this coaching center's spoon-feeding system GOI just need to one thing. Just make the Syllabus of XII standard of all the board same as IIT JEE.Make a common exam for XII. I think the reason why so many stdnt go to the coaching centers from various state board because of the discrepancy of their syllabus. they can not compete with coaching center product simply because they focus on the syllabus of their respective board which is so different from the IIT JEE.
    One of my friend who is from a state-board poor-village product told once that he even did not appear in IIT-JEE exam because he just had to focus on his XII exam and state JEE exam. And the truth is even poor student goes to coaching, but they were taught according to the syll of their state board.
    So remove this discrepancy soon you will find lot of stdnts getting success without help of those famous coaching centers.
    Also I support the idea of putting some weight (say 30%) on XII exam subject to the implementation of the common board exam and syllabus.
    Also IIT can implement an idea of waiving the IIT-JEE exam for top 100 (or higher) ranker from this common XII exam. In that way stdnt will get two chance to prove. The reason why i would like to waive IIT exam for those stdnts who ranked within 100 in their XII exam, is from my observation that many stdnts who ranked within top 10 in their board exams did not get goo AIR in IIT exam hence they went for the State univ. But they are no way inferior to those coaching class spoon-feeding product.


  12. Anonymous said...

    JEE coaching classes will be hard to wish away. They will mutate into "get-80%-in-board-exam" classes. Examples of some I have come across in Hyderabad:
    JEE preparatory classes for 6th standard students; coaching classes for preparation for entry into coaching classes for JEE; coaching classes for Infosys recruitment test and what not. Not sure how we can get rid of them. But I am certain Sibal's algorithm won't work.

  13. Anonymous said...

    I remember the jokes we had during our IITM days seeing the various courses being floated by Brilliant Tutorials...Mebbe in future they will start courses for students in 6th grade, then go all the way upto 1st grade or Kindergarten :). But we never imagined that the coaching industry will turn into the multi-billion monster that it is now. I guess a lot has to do with the decreasing quality of other engineering colleges. Even now as some one in the blog pointed out, the best way to reduce the importance of the coaching classes is to focus on ways to improve the quality of general UG education across disciplines providing more options to student after 12th rather than just increasing the number of seats in IITs and bringing down their quality.

  14. Anonymous said...

    How about changing the pattern of IIT-JEE question paper itself, so that it's more in line with the class XII syllabus? What's wrong with having a not-so-difficult, high scoring paper, for which you don't require two (or maybe more) years of coaching? Can it not act like a standardized test?

    The only reason I can think of, for the IITs not wanting to change the pattern of JEE is because it has become one of their USPs- having the toughest and amongst the most low scoring exams in the world.

  15. harish said...

    For the coaching classes to disappear, the Indian society has to undergo a major upheaval. We have to first realize that engineers (and doctors) are not the only ways to earn your life. Of course, some people see the business schools and management as the holy grail, but the old mindset has not died -- therefore, one goes to the business school after a degree in engineering.

    Parents should realize that coaching classes are nothing but concentration camps. Imagine spending 18 hours a day slogging how to figure out three incorrect choices out of the given four. These kids should be enjoying life instead. And it goes without saying that the coaching camp style of reverse-engineering does not necessarily make one a good engineer.

    Again it is not surprising that the kids from these "concentration camps" do not know what to do when the "prison guards" are not around -- so at IITs, a lot of them quickly move into the "burnt-out" phase.

  16. harish said...

    @Anon 11.23 -- the purpose of an entrance exam is to differentiate. You seem to be suggesting a feel-good exam with no potential to differentiate. Why even bother to conduct such an exam then -- just declare everybody is a winner.

    And by the way, the JEE pattern has in fact been changing quite regularly. I thought they had a pretty decent 2 tier exam system some years back, but I understand that ministerial interference forced them to abandon it.

  17. Vishu said...

    I am from Karnataka where JEE is hardly of any interest to people. This might have to do with the fact that people have too many engineering colleges which can earn jobs. When I went to Kanpur most people though I didn't get an engg seat in Bangalore (the fact that I chose Physics left them with no doubt!!). One solution to stop this mad rush for IITs is to increase the number of good engineering colleges. More importantly, as many have pointed out, change the mindset that there is life outside engineering.

  18. Pratik Ray said...

    @ Harish.

    IITs are sort of concentration camps according to this video ;)

  19. SS said...

    Suppose we stopped obsessing with the symptoms (coaching centres, entrance exams, qualifying marks) and started looking at the malaise itself: the IITs?

  20. Anonymous said...

    @SS: Brilliant. Na rehaga bnas, na bajegi bnasuri.

  21. Anonymous said...

    @Harish: Yes, every exam in which you don't have to slog for 2 years (and even then not manage to get 50% of the max marks) is a feel good exam having no potential to differentiate.

    On the other hand, an exam where there's a difference of one mark between a 1500 ranker and a 2000 ranker is the right way to go about it.